Bearded vultures were extinct in the Alps at the start of the 20th century
The bearded vulture is one of the most impressive birds of prey in Europe, native to the Alpine regions. It differs from other types of vultures mainly in its appearance, behaviour and foraging. In contrast to necrophagous vultures, a bearded vulture usually feeds on bones. It can devour this type of food without any competition since it's especially aggressive gastric fluids are ideal for digesting bone.
The bearded vulture was seen as a hunter of lambs and chamois for a long time and was even considered to abduct children from time to time. There was a significantly large amount of hunting being undertaken on these vultures by man at the start of the 20th century, which lead to their entire extinction in the Alps. This is despite the fact that the bearded vulture is not threatened in terms of their global population – their species is listed as endangered in Europe.
International cooperation for reintroduction of the bearded vulture into the wild
Zoo Berlin works closely with the Vulture Conservation Foundation under the European preservation breeding programme for the protection and resettlement of the bearded vultures back into their original habitat. Our common objective is to rebuild a stable metapopulation in Europe. The European population on Crete, Corsica and in the Pyrenees would therefore no longer be isolated from the populations in North Africa and Asia.
The international project for the resettlement of the bearded vulture in the Alps began in 1978. A number of young bearded vultures from the Zoo and Tierpark were used for this purpose, while others were provided for the breeding stations of the project to help maintain the genetic variability as diverse as possible and to help care for the offspring here.
The impressive bearded vultures now rein high once again in the Alps
The first birds were released into the Hohe Tauern National Park in Austria in 1986. Over seventy hatched young birds have already been counted in the wild. More than 200 individuals were living across four national parks in the Alps in 2013 thanks to the implementation of the resettlement project. The great success of the project has lead to the resettlement of the bearded vulture being extended to Spain from 2005. In total, more than 170 young birds born in the Zoo have already been reintroduced into the wild. The efforts are continuing, because in order to sustainably secure the numbers out there, more chicks born in the zoo will have to be released into the wild.