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The Flying Dutchman – Griffon Vulture K07 returned to Bulgaria! [ 2012-02-06 ]

After being rescued by our colleagues in Turkey, the Flying Dutchman K07, released within the Vultures Return to Bulgaria LIFE08 NAT/BG/278 Project, was transported back to Bulgaria on February 2nd 2012 with a day delay due to the severe weather conditions.

On December 14th 2011 our colleague and friend Dr. Ahmet Kutukcu contacted us that one of our vultures, tagged K07 has been caught near Edirne.

The bird was accommodated at the only specialized wildlife rescue centre of Turkey having been found helpless in a military base near Edirne, Turkey. Fortunately, the thorough examination carried out by Dr. Ahmet Kutukcu showed that the vulture had no permanent injuries and was ready to be re-released.

The Dutchman is of zoo origin (donated by DierenPark Amersfoort) and in Turkey it would have been released outside a formed group of experienced wild vultures and would have slim chances to navigate and survive. Therefore, despite all our respect and gratitude for the efforts of our colleagues in Turkey, our team decided it was best to transport the bird and release it back from Bulgaria. 

Our team left for Turkey on time, visiting our colleagues from the Veterinary Faculty of the Istanbul University, assisting for the transport of several birds in distress to the specialized rescue centre, located at Karagabey, Bursa.

We reached the Centre at Marmara Sea where K07 was accommodated late in the evening, travelling in deep snow and wind. The other day roads got closed due to heavy snow and low temperature, so our way back got cut off.

The representatives of the local authorities, invited for the official send off of the Dutchman barely managed to arrive only at noon. The governors promised a special snow plow to allow the start of the crew the next day. At the same time, a media team, sent from Ankara, was caught in a snow trap somewhere near Bursa and could not make it to the Centre at all.

Fortunately, the next day – February 2nd 2012, weather turned out milder and allowed the team, together with the Dutchman, to start in time.

Later that evening the bird arrived at the Wildlife Rescue Centre at Green Balkans – Stara Zagora, where it will be quarantined before being transferred back to the adaptation aviary in the Balkan Mountains for re-release. 

On behalf of the Vultures Return in Bulgaria LIFE08 NAT/BG/278 Project we would like to express special gratitude to Dr. Kutukcu, Ozkan Uner and all Bulgarian and Turkish authorities, which enabled the return of the Dutchman.

Power line pylon killed Berkley the adopted vulture, together with all the hopes of the environmentalists  [ 2011-10-19 ]

An extremely tragic end ceased the three-year adventures of the bird imported from Spain and released on October 14th 2011 within the Second National Vulture Festival. 

The bird was adopted by the Vanchev Family from Plovdiv, who granted funds for the fitting of an expensive GPS/GSM transmitter to help us follow the adaptation and behavior of Berkley into the wild.

The route of Berkley, revealed by its transmitter

The transmitter was the one that helped us reveal the tragic end of the bird – several subsequent signals sent on 16-17-18 October 2011 showed that the location of the vulture did not change for hours. At the same time, the speedometer was sending signals for the device being tipped upside down, while the transmitter was fitted on the back of the bird. The last active data showed Berkley being 2 km away from its death, travelling at the speed of 83 km/h, 32 meters above the ground.

Lead by the coordinates sent by the transmitters, our team found the bird dead under a pylon from the power lines near the village of Kamen, some 16 km to the Southeast of the release site. 

Berkley hatched in 2009 in Castilla la Mancha, Spain, got trapped and sent to Bulgaria in 2010 within the Vultures Return in Bulgaria LIFE08 NAT/BG/278 Project. Here he was tagged and accommodated in a special aviary above Sliven, where he stayed for a whole year in order to acclimatize and accept the rocks of the Sinite kamani site as its homeland. The bird was sent to freedom by its adopters – the Vanchevs Family, representatives of the Dutch and German Embassies to Bulgaria and many kids.


Therefore, one single pylon killed the dreams and efforts of tens of environmentalists from all over Europe, who organized the travel, accommodation, upbringing and release of Berkley, hoping that one day he will nest in our country. Rest in peace, Berkley!

Non-isolated power line pylons prove to be a main killer of many rare and protected species. Birds get killed on the spot or suffer for days, crippled and burnt by the electricity, until the jackals and stray dogs put them out of their misery. The intensely developing power line network in Africa is also turning into an invincible obstacle for the migratory species, many of which fail to pass the deadly web of wires and pylons. 

The problem is generally solvable – isolating the pylons through special isolators or replacing them with pylons which do not threaten the lives of the birds.
Only the will and collaboration of the companies, serving the power lines are required.

On behalf of all vulture lovers and especially on behalf of the project team, we are calling for isolating the power lines in order to stop the tragic losses and secure the return of the vultures in Bulgaria!

Two new Griffon Vultures released to mark the International Vulture Awareness Day 2011  [ 2011-09-03 ]

Green Balkans and the “Vultures Return in Bulgaria” LIFE08 NAT/BG/278 Project celebrated the day with joint monitoring and feeding at the four aviaries in the Balkan Mountains, also releasing two new Griffon Vultures!


This year over 80 organizations from five continents – America (USA, Canada); Europe (UK, Spain, France, Belgium, Bulgaria, etc.); Asia (Nepal, India) and Australia – are going to celebrate the initiative of the Birds of Prey Working Group in South Africa and the Hawk Conservancy Trust in England.

The “Vultures Return in Bulgaria” LIFE08 NAT/BG/278 Project run by Green Balkans, Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna and the Birds of Prey Protection Society, also took part in the initiative with the following events:

The Wildlife Rescue Centre opened its doors for everyone interested to see all the four vulture species that used to nest in Bulgaria – Griffon, Black, Egyptian and Bearded Vultures. Unfortunately, Bearded Vultures can only be seen at the Wildlife Rescue Centre today, as years ago the species has gone extinct from Bulgaria. The Griffon Vulture currently kept in the Rescue Centre – K1T has already been released from the aviary at the Sinite kamani NP, yet it did not join the group formed in the region, and, lost weight and starved, was rescued by vigilant citizens of Sliven.

Joint feedings and monitoring was carried out in all four of the supplementary feeding sites at the vulture adaptation aviaries. The results are as follows:

  • Vrachanski Balkan – a total of 10 of the bird released since October 2010 were observed on site. KON – a bird which has not been seen since three weeks has returned and joined the group. As a pure coincidence, the thirteenth bird released from the area today carries the number K13. After the door was opened, K13 immediately joined the group of 10 other vultures, feeding on the supplementary feeding site. We are wishing her best of luck!
  • Central Balkan – 5 out of 8 released vultures were observed. These are the same 5 birds, released in October 2010, which voluntarily returned to the aviary and stayed there the entire winter. In April they re-gained courage and came out and have been in the area since then.
  • Sinite kamani – the three-year old male K1R was tagged with a prototype GPS/GSM transmitter and released. There were no other vultures today, most probably due to the poor weather, as just a day earlier, on September 2nd, a total of 11 vultures were spotted on the supplementary feeding site. This is a group formed by birds released from Sliven and Kotel, which are regularly strolling between the two sites.
  • Kotel – no birds have were observed during the day, possibly due to the poor weather and limited visibility. However, before dusk, eight vultures finally appeared, most probably the Sliven-Kotel group.

The coordinates of the K02 – Sliven vulture!K02 is probably together with the rest from the Sliven-Kotel group

We are wishing best of luck to K1R and K13, which have to cope with the challenges of wilderness on their own from today, but, encouraged by the success of the rest of the birds, released within the Vultures Return in Bulgaria Project, we hope that they will make it!
At present, a total of 51 Griffon Vultures have been released from the four aviaries and we are aware of the whereabouts of some 26 of them!

Freeda, the Griffon Vulture which returned from Turkey, has reached… Poland!  [ 2011-08-01 ]

The adventures of the Griffon Vulture K06 did not end with the shooting at Edirne, Turkey in January 2011. After the team of the Vultures Return in Bulgaria managed to retrieve the bird in March 2011 and re-release it from the area of the Sinite Kamani NP in June, Freeda has now reached… Poland!

Freeda was photographed by Polish photographers and nature lovers in the area of the village of Dabrowice, Poland, who said that the bird has been seen in the period July 25-28th 2011. Our Polish colleagues announced that the bird looked healthy and flies well, while the local people accept it very well and feed it. Unfortunately Freeda allows people to approach her at very close distance, what may turn into a potential problem for her later wandering.


The signal came through a photo-forum, where the odd pictures of Freeda were simultaneously spotted and sent to our team by our colleague Stefan Avramov and the Hungarian Istvan Balasz. The interesting thing about that is that the signal for Freeda being shot in Turkey was also received by our Hungarian colleague Tamas Eniko Anna.

Freeda is among the greatest adventurer from all 46 birds, released within the Vultures Return in Bulgaria LIFE08 NAT/BG/278. 
Freeda is a young female Griffon Vulture, hatched in 2008 in Albacate, Spain and sent to Bulgaria in March 2009 to become a part of the pilot five-year programme for restoring the Griffon Vultures as nesting species in the Balkan Mountains. 
The bird was released within the Vultures Return in Bulgaria Project in the area of the Sinite kamani Nature Park in October 2010. In January 2011 the vulture was found shot in the area of Edirne, treated and stabilized thanks to the Turkish authorities and our colleagues from the University of Istanbul. 
The experts decided that despite the cares and efforts of our Turkish colleagues from the Istanbul University, the bird would have best chances if released from the initial site in the Sinite kamani Nature Park. After a month of paperwork and thanks to the kind assistance of Dr. Ozge Erdogan, Dr. Ahmet Kutukcu, Mr. Ozkan Uner, the National agency for Food Safety, the Ministry of Environment and Waters and the Turkish authorities, the bird was successfully transported back to Bulgaria in March 2011. Then K06 got her name – Freeda, passed a month of quarantine at the Wildlife Rehabilitation and Rescue Centre at Green Balkans – Stara Zagora and was transported to the adaptation aviary of Sinite kamani NP.
On June 13th Freeda received a second chance out of the adaptation aviary. Unlike six other Griffon Vultures, which stayed in the area, Freeda once again chose adventures.


After getting involved in a great international story – Spanish bird, released from Bulgaria, treated in Turkey, found by Hungarian colleagues, Freeda now got Poland into the mess!

The team of the Vultures Return in Bulgaria would like to express our gratitude to all colleagues, who sent us information on the whereabouts of the bird and especially to Istvan Balazs, Ohad Hatzove, Zbigniew Kajzer and Stefan Avramov.

Yet another Griffon Vulture killed by non-isolated electricity pylon [ 2010-11-10 ]

A dead Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) was found dead under a pylon with non-isolated wires close to the town of Sliven on November 7th 2011. 

The dead bird was found by the field assistant of the “Conservation measures for target species of the EU Birds Directive – Lesser Kestrel, Black Vulture, and Imperial Eagle in their main habitats in Bulgaria” Project, implemented by Green Balkans with the financial assistance of the Operational Programme Environment 2007 – 2013 of the EC. This area, which is an important habitat of breeding and wandering Imperial Eagles (Aquila heliaca) is a part of a specialized assessment of the impact of the electricity network on the Imperial Eagle and other birds of prey. 


The dead Griffon was found to carry yellow wing tags and PVC rings. These helped to identify the bird as one of a group of vultures of Spanish origin released in the Sinite kamani Nature Park in the end of October within the Vultures Return in Bulgaria LIFE08 NAT/BG/278 Project carried out by Green Balkans. Our colleagues say this is the second bird electrocuted in the area of Sliven. 

Such data, the results of the specialized study carried out in the area as well as information presented by other nature conservation organizations show the urgent need of isolation of the wires and pylons of the electricity network, especially in areas of key significance for the preservation of birds of high conservation value.

Griffon Vultures free in the Balkan Mountains! [ 2010-10-28 ]

The doors of the aviaries in Vrachanski Balkan, Central Balkan, Sinite kamani and Kotlenska planina were simultaneously open in order to release a total of 26 Griffon Vultures imported from Spain within the Vultures Return in Bulgaria Project.


The team of the “Vultures Return in Bulgaria” Project, funded by the LIFE instrument of the European Community would like to congratulate all nature-lovers and enthusiasts with the historic moment of the first coordinated release of Griffon Vultures in the Balkan Mountains.
An official Patron of the event was the Vice-president of Bulgaria – gen. Angel Marin.

Special address for the event was made also from Janez Potocnik, European Commissioner for the Environment!

Before the release, there were 56 Griffon Vultures in the four aviaries of Vrachanski Balkan, Central Balkan, Sliven and Kotel, secured by the Vulture Conservation Foundation, Mallorca, Spain; Zoo Zlin, the Czech Republic; as well as the Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna. Two of the birds are long-term inhabitants of the Wildlife Rescue Centre at Green Balkans – Stara Zagora. 

On October 27th the doors of the four aviaries were simultaneously open, so that 26 of the birds can choose when to leave the pens. The rest 30 birds will remain in the aviaries, as they arrived only in June and need additional time to acclimatize and adapt. In addition to that, we are hoping that the remaining vultures will attract the released birds in the area, so that they can be regularly fed and observed by the project team.


At the centre of the media attention was the adaptation aviary in the Sinite kamani Nature Park, where more than 60 kids, together with representatives of the Vulture Conservation Foundation, Mallorca, Span; the District Governor of Sliven – Mr. Kavrakov, the Director of RIEW Stara Zagora – Ms. Penka Nacheva and many other official guests, friends and nature-lovers released two preliminary prepared Griffon Vultures and opened the door of the aviary for the other five that need to leave the pens near Sliven. 

At the end of the day it became clear that there are already 7 Griffons into the wild – one left on its own the aviary in Vrachanski Balkan, observed by our colleagues from the Birds of Prey Protection Society, two were released in Sliven and four other birds have been freed near Kotel, by our colleagues from the Fund for Wild Flora and Fauna. We are looking forward to the moment when the rest of the birds will decide to leave!

All Griffon Vultures released within the project are marked with yellow PVC wing-tags with a unique combination of black letters and numbers fixed to both their wings, easy to see when the bird is in flight or perched. Each vulture is also wearing a yellow plastic ring with number matching the number of the wing tags. In addition to that, 7 of the vultures will carry special radio-transmitters and a prototype GPS transmitter, developed by Green Balkans and Elektroninvest Ltd to allow for tracking their movement and dispersal in the wild. Therefore all these birds will be easy to identify in the wild.

After the release in Sliven, all guests returned to launch the First Griffon Vulture Festival in the centre of the town. Tens of citizens and guests of Sliven received informational materials, saw real-size vulture dummies, feathers and eggs, while the youngest participants coloured and drew vultures.

We are grateful to Elitsa Kindergarten for the wonderful programme they had prepared for the opening, for the smiles and high spirit they brought to our information stand.

We are grateful to our colleagues from the Vulture Conservation Foundation for securing the birds and our long-term collaboration.

We are grateful to our hosts from the Sinite kamani Nature Park, for their great help with the organization and implementation of the release. We are also grateful to the tens of volunteers and friends of Green Balkans who assisted the people at the information stands, sang and danced with the kids!