The bearded vulture is also known as the lammergeyer
Photo: R. Sturm / blickwinkel / imago images
For the first time in over 140 years, Bearded Vultures are back in the wild in Germany.
Two young birds were released into the wild in the Berchtesgaden National Park as part of a Europe-wide reintroduction project - more than 100 years after the last known kill.
“This is a historic event.
We are bringing the bearded vulture back to a habitat where it belongs «, said Bavaria's Environment Minister Thorsten Glauber.
In addition, the Bavarian vultures have an important function: "We are closing a gap in the distribution," explained the chairman of the State Association for Bird Protection, Norbert Schäffer.
The aim is to someday create a continuous connection between the populations from Morocco via Italy, the Balkans and Turkey to Central Asia.
The 100-day-old females from Spain were carried by experts on foot to their release niche - a huge rock overhang, 20 meters wide and six meters deep.
Two artificial nests made of twigs and wool provide a feeling of security.
Experts hope that the animals will be exploring the rocks in a few days at the latest.
The bearded vulture has now been resettled quite successfully in the western Alps. Around 230 animals have been released since 1986. The survival rate is 88 percent in the first year and 96 percent in the second - values that are unattainable for birds hatched in the wild. But later things rapidly decline: "We assume that 30 percent of all bearded vultures in the Alpine region die miserably from lead poisoning," reports Toni Wegscheider from the State Association for Bird Protection. In Austria it even hits around half. "They suffocate alive, they starve alive" - depending on the organs affected. The vultures ingest the neurotoxin with carrion that was shot with lead ammunition. Even if vulture territories are much larger, at least the Berchtesgaden hunters support the project and have switched to lead-free ammunition.
Bad image once brought the end
Bearded vultures reach a wingspan of almost three meters and are among the rarest birds in Europe.
Once upon a time, bearded vultures, which are among the largest flight birds in the world, were wiped out by humans.
That was also because of their bad image.
Bearded vultures were once notorious as child thieves, among other things.
The animals specialize in carrion.
They have developed a special technique and, with their exceptionally large mouth, can swallow bones that are centimeter thick without being crushed.
In order to improve the acceptance of the birds, farmers and hunters, for example, have been informed that bearded vultures do not deserve their former name lammergeyer.
But the protected animals have been killed in the past.
In 1997, for example, a hunter was convicted of shooting down an animal intended for a resettlement project.
In the Berchtesgaden National Park, two to three birds are to be released into the wild every year over the next ten years and the first offspring will hatch in eight to ten years.
The cost of the project is around three quarters of a million euros.
Experience shows that after their vagabond time, many animals look for a territory near their release niche.
joe / dpa