A return to life for the black vulture in the Lleida Pyrenees

Our Biodiversity Conservation Plan involves working on projects such as the creation of Supplementary Feeding Points (SFP) which, together with the Trenca Association, have enabled the Catalan Pyrenees to be repopulated with black vultures. 

The image of the vulture has historically been associated with negative cultural values such as, for example, betrayal, evil and bad luck. In fact, as Gerard Plana, conservation technician at Trenca, explains, these birds of prey have always been branded as an animal related to death. But if we leave prejudice aside, there are a number of reasons why we should admire, protect and conserve these extraordinary animals.

The most important role played by carrion-eaters, those that feed on dead bodies, is to eliminate the remains of animals left out in the countryside and which could be an important source of disease. That is why vultures play a significant role in the natural balance of ecosystems and diversity.

In 2000, the regulations imposed as a result of the health alarm caused by "mad cow disease" led to the obligation to remove animal carcasses from all livestock farms. This led to a severe food crisis for the different species of vultures which resulted in a decrease in their populations.

However, almost half a century after they disappeared and 20 years after this great crisis, vultures are once again flying over the mountains in the Lleida Pyrenees. Currently, this is one of the few places where a number of different specimens of vultures can be observed: black vulture, griffon vultures, white scavenger vulture and bearded vulture. 

Black vultures in the Lleida Pyrenees.
Black vultures in the Lleida Pyrenees.

Reintroduction of the vulture into the Catalan Pyrenees

Although the black vulture is one of the most special with its characteristic almost black plumage, one metre high and weighing 10 kilos, it has also been one of the most affected over the years. A number of entities and associations have been working for a decade in its reintroduction to the Catalan Pyrenees, with the aim of raising awareness, conserving and protecting this giant of the sky.

Endesa, has a Biodiversity Conservation Plan to promote a project to create Supplementary Feeding Points (SFP) in the Pyrenees with the help of the Trenca Association. As Núria Vallverdúç, conservation technician at the Trenca Association, assures us: "For us, the support of companies like Endesa is very important. It is not easy to find people who are willing and able to finance these types of actions." 

“For us, the support of companies like Endesa is very important. It is not easy to find people who are willing and able to finance these types of actions”.

– Núria Vallverdú, conservation technician at the Trenca Association.

There are a total of four Supplementary Feeding Points (SFP). These enable the black vulture, which eats about 300 kg of carrion a year, to get the necessary food for its conservation. These points are supplied by dead animals that not suitable for human consumption and they are donated by farmers in the area.

 

The challenge of securing the future of this species

The installation of the SFPs is essential for the reintroduction of species that have disappeared, but we need to go further. Now, as Núria Vallverdú explains, "the challenge is for both the local population and society in general to get involved in the conservation of this species, understanding that it is the best for everyone's future".

“The challenge is for both the local population and society in general to get involved in the conservation of this species, understanding that it is the best for everyone's future”.

– Núria Vallverdú, conservation technician at the Trenca Association.

This project is also closely linked to environmental education, since, as Gerard Plana, conservation technician at the Trenca Association, commented, "We need to explain to children that vultures are doing nature a great favour." That is why, since 2019, a lot of work has been done in schools in the area with regard to dissemination and the promotion of awareness.  

Black vultures in the Lleida Pyrenees.

In 2020 a really special venue was opened where incredible specimens of vulture can be appreciated: Casa Daniela. The aim is to turn this place into a meeting point for lovers of photography, without disturbing the birds and favouring the local economy.

Since this project was launched, there is now a colony of black vultures that numbers about 70 individuals. Our objective for the future is for these birds not to need SFPs and to be able to thrive naturally.

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