Is Israel’s Egyptian Vulture reintroduction mission working?

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Reintroduction and inhabitants reinforcement are two necessary measures applied worldwide to forestall native or international extinction of threatened species. Evaluating the effectiveness of such conservation actions when it comes to survival or reproductive success of the reintroduced animals is essential to enhance outcomes. But monitoring could be very difficult as a result of longevity and long-distance actions of the launched people and the dearth of funding to hold out in depth monitoring within the area.

Reintroduction and reinforcement of vultures have been utilized in a number of elements of the world to counteract inhabitants declines linked to anthropogenic threats. The Egyptian Vulture is a globally threatened vulture species, whose populations have undergone a steep decline, significantly in Jap Europe and within the Center East. To reverse the damaging development of this species noticed in Israel, a captive-breeding and launch programme began in 2006. Monitoring of the launched birds has advanced over time from color rings and wing tags to GPS monitoring.

Egyptian Vulture, copyright Glyn Sellors, from the surfbirds galleries

On this article led by Ron Efrat from the Ben-Gurion College of the Neguev in Israel, the authors aimed toward evaluating totally different monitoring strategies used throughout the reintroduction mission. Then the authors assessed if the obvious survival differed relying on the discharge protocols and in contrast survival between launched and wild birds with the intention to assess the success of this conservation mission.

Between 2006 and 2020, 82 Egyptian Vultures have been captive-bred and launched to the wild. These birds have been monitored utilizing a wide range of strategies: i) all launched vultures have been ringed with distinctive color rings and till 2016, most have been additionally fitted with distinctive wing tags; ii) 17 vultures have been fitted with a traditional VHF telemetry machine (between 2006 and 2014); iii) lastly in 2013, 2 of the 4 launched vultures have been fitted with Argos-GPS transmitters, in 2014, 4 of the 13 launched vultures have been fitted with a GPS-GSM transmitter (E-obs) and between 2016 and 2020, 43 of the 47 launched vultures have been additionally fitted with GPS-GSM transmitters.

As well as, between 2018 and 2020, the authors fitted GPS-GSM transmitters (Ornitela) to 26 wild Egyptian Vulture chicks of their nests all through Israel, roughly 2–3 weeks earlier than they fledged. This may allow the comparability in resighting data and survival between captive-bred and wild Egyptian Vultures.

Common surveys have been performed all through the examine space (primarily at Hai-Bar Carmel Nature Reserve) to establish people primarily based on their distinctive markings (color rings and wing tags).

The authors examined for variations within the proportion of noticed vultures between monitoring schemes and amongst totally different teams of vultures, but in addition for variations in survival between (1) captive-bred vultures launched throughout their first 12 months and people launched throughout their second 12 months, (2) captive-bred vultures launched in winter and people launched in spring, and (3) captive-bred and wild-hatched vultures.

Utilizing the GPS knowledge, the authors didn’t discover any impact of launch season or launch age on obvious survival throughout the first 2 years after launch or throughout first migration.

Importantly, no distinction in obvious survival might be detected between captive-bred and wild-hatched vultures throughout the first 2 years after launch for captive-bred birds or the primary 2 years after tagging for wild-hatched vultures or throughout their first migration.

In quite a few instances (38%), no knowledge was ever obtained by observing the rings or wing tags of captive-bred vultures, whereas all GPS transmitters despatched knowledge. Due to this fact, these findings solid doubt on the effectivity of VHF telemetry for brief or long-term monitoring of Egyptian Vultures.

As well as, two breeding makes an attempt involving captive-bred Egyptian Vultures have been recorded in 2019 and 2020 throughout surveys.

This examine confirmed that the monitoring scheme influenced the kind and quantity of information acquired on the actions and obvious survival of a long-lived raptor. Such conclusions have important implications for the flexibility of managers to evaluate such initiatives’ success and perceive the causes of mortality.

One other essential end result was the absence of distinction in obvious survival between captive-bred and wild birds throughout the migration or throughout their first 2 years post-release or fledging. Captivity is commonly anticipated to scale back youth survival by affecting the launched animals’ behaviour. One potential clarification of the captive-bred vultures’ higher-than-expected survival is their older age and the very fact they may have gathered extra expertise in comparison with wild birds throughout the identical interval. These age and expertise variations end result from the delayed launch of the captive-bred birds (also called Headstarting) through which birds have been launched from captivity at an older age than the age through which Egyptian Vultures fledge within the wild (~240 older on common) and turn into unbiased in pure situations.

These outcomes suggest that if captive-breeding does have opposed results on the launched vultures, these results are offset by maturation and/or expertise gained throughout the first few months of life whereas nonetheless in captivity and/or whereas within the wild previous to their first migration.

The upper-than-expected obvious survival of captive-bred vultures alongside the primary report of captive-bred Egyptian Vultures efficiently breeding within the wild are encouraging indicators of success of this long-term mission.

Nevertheless, additional analysis is really useful to raised perceive the mechanisms required for gaining the wanted expertise throughout captive breeding and to develop ongoing monitoring with the intention to assess long-term survival and breeding success each for captive-bred and for wild vultures.

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