Actions

Actions

Anti-poison actions

Increase background information around use of poison baits

In order to increase understanding among partners and stakeholders on the current state of illegal poison bait use and factors related to it, the project team will (1) assess the current legislative and administrative framework on the management of poison bait use incidents, (2) collate information on past poisoning incidents and create a database that will enable drawing of conclusions on poisoning incident factors, high-risk areas for poisoning and other and (3) contact a baseline awareness level study and explore drivers behind the use of poison bait through targeted questionnaires to targeted communities and stakeholders.

Develop policy and operational recommendations to solve the human-wildlife and human-human conflict

In an effort to alleviate the motives behind poison bait use, the project team will identify alternative methods to illegal poison-bait use as solutions to conflicts such as those between human-wildlife regarding lamb predation by foxes and stray dogs. The aim is to propose realistic and tangible measures to alleviate human-wildlife conflicts in rural areas.

Develop studies around Griffon Vulture population in Cyprus

A study on ecosystem services provided by Griffon Vultures will improve our understanding of the benefits of Griffon Vultures for ecosystem functioning and human wellbeing in Cyprus and will therefore strengthen support for future conservation actions. For example, similar studies in Spain have demonstrated that exploiting the ability of Griffon Vultures to rapidly consume livestock carcasses would significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and economic costs arising from the collection and transport of carcasses to processing plants by vehicles (Morales-Reyes et al. 2015). Vultures also provide cultural and spiritual services, as well as recreational services in the form of ecotourism (DeVault et al. 2016). Another study on Griffon Vulture Population Viability Analysis (PVA) will enable the project team to assess the risk of extinction of the Griffon Vulture populations under different scenarios and to determine which demographic parameters (e.g. survival, productivity) and processes are most influential in determining population persistence. As part of this study, different scenarios will be developed to predict the effect of planned conservation actions on population growth predictions.

Elaboration of a National Anti-poison Road Map

A National Anti-poison Road Map will be the key planning and guidance document for use in the fight against illegal use of poison bait during the project and beyond.

This road map will bring together relevant stakeholders (from land users to Government authorities and NGOs) in order to lay down a long-term plan designed and agreed to address and deal with the problem of poison bait use effectively.

Production and dissemination of anti-poison first-aid kits for wildlife

In order to minimize losses of Griffon Vulture from poisoning, the project will equip the patrols and Game and Fauna Service wardens with the knowledge on how to provide first aid to keep such birds alive until they can be taken to a vet for specialized treatment. To ensure proper use of the first aid-kits, the ApDU officers and GFS wardens will receive specialized training on how to use them and how to handle and provide first aids to grounded vultures. The first aid kits will be produced and distributed in a targeted manner to users such as Game and Fauna Service wardens, Forestry officers, rural vets and rural policemen and BirdLife Cyprus monitoring programme participants.

Development of protocols for managing poison incidents

A series of protocols and guidance documents on how the different stakeholders should respond and act in the face of a poison incident is key in order to support investigation of incidents as well as minimize further spread of poison in the food chain. Appropriate protocols will provide the guidance on how to collect samples properly, proceed in necropsies and toxicological analysis and investigate a case and enforce the law. The project team will also produce a protocol for vulture rescue and rehabilitation in order to minimise the loss of Griffon Vultures. This action will be implemented with the collaboration of the State General Laboratory and the Veterinary Services.

Creation of Anti-poison Dog Units

An effective tool in the battle against poison bait use are canine units that can detect poison baits and poisoned victims. These Anti-poison Dog Units are effectively used across Europe and the project foresees the creation and operation of two such units in Cyprus. The units will help increase our knowledge on the real extent of poison bait use in Cyprus, enable us to check and remove poison baits from the countryside and act as a deterrent factor to those who illegally use poison baits in the countryside. The ApDUs will be managed by the Game and Fauna Service, which is the competent authority for the protection of birds in Cyprus, while patrols will be focusing only in the countryside in areas relevant to the Griffon Vulture. In addition, the project foresees the initiation of a chain of custody for poison cases allowing the project team and stakeholders to bring a possible poison case to court undertaking all the necessary procedural legal actions for the successful outcome of cases and convictions of perpetrators.

© Pixabay

Actions to enhance feeding opportunities

Evaluation of the current veterinary legislation related to disposal of carcasses and recommendations for upgrading

Vultures, as scavenger species, feed on dead animals of medium to large size. Between 1996 and 2000 the appearance of bovine spongiform encephalopathy emerged as one of the most serious public health and political crises concerning food safety ever experienced in the European Union (EU). Subsequent sanitary legislation (Regulation EC 1774 ⁄ 2002) that greatly restricted the use of animal by-products not intended for human consumption led to profound changes in the management of livestock carcasses (i.e. the industrial destruction of around 80% of all animal carcasses). This threatened the vulture population of Europe, including Cyprus, due to reduction of food availability. As part of this action, the project will review the current legislative framework and regulation in Cyprus on carcass disposal and supplementary feeding sites for vultures and compare it to the latest EU regulation (142/2011). The project will also identify best practice and produce some recommendations in collaboration with relevant stakeholders such as the Veterinary Services in an effort to increase feeding opportunities for Griffon Vultures in Cyprus.

Creation and operation of one feeding station

Currently, there are four feeding stations operating in Limassol and Paphos districts. Three of them are operated by the Game and Fauna Service and one of them is operated by the Department of Forests. Feeding stations serve the purpose of providing supplementary, safe food to Griffon Vultures. Setting up of one more feeding station would aid the re-establishment of the Griffon Vulture in other areas of the island and it is expected that with the increase of the population, through the import of Spanish birds, some birds might re-colonise historic nesting sites. The use of feeding stations will be monitored though cameras.

Anti-collision actions

Minimise risk of collisions with powerlines

According to the Multi-species Action Plan to Conserve African-Eurasian Vultures (Botha et al. 2017), collisions with infrastructure (powerlines) is identified as a critical threat ranked based on scope, severity and irreversibility. In Cyprus, there are a few recorded possible Griffon Vulture deaths due to collision with powerlines. In the first stage of the project the most dangerous electricity powerlines close to breeding, feeding and other important areas for the Griffon Vulture will be identified. At a second stage, in order to reduce mortality from collisions with powerlines, the project will mark with ‘bird diverters’ those powerlines that pose the highest collision risk for vultures. This action will be implemented in collaboration with the Cyprus Electricity Authority.

© BirdLife Cyprus

Bolster the Cyprus population with restocking

Restocking of the Griffon Vulture population in Cyprus is needed due to the extremely low number of individuals (20 free flying birds at the start of the project, December 2019). Even if most of the threats are controlled, it will be very difficult for the current population to recover. Considering the implementation of all actions aimed at addressing the main threats, as well as the results from the studies, the project foresees restocking and actual transport of individuals from Spain, to start only after the first project year. For a successful restocking program, specific procedures will be followed, i.e. agree acclimatization and release strategy, equip birds with GPS transmitters, veterinary support for birds if needed.

Monitoring

© Silvio A. Rusmigo

The project team will be closely monitoring different aspects of the project to ensure project is moving towards the set targets and objectives. A set of monitoring indicators are set to be monitored throughout the project duration.

Moreover, the project team will monitor the Griffon Vulture population and breeding through field work, trap cameras and GPS tracking.

Building capacity

In order to establish a national functioning network of actors related to the protection of the Griffon Vulture and its threats, the project foresees a number of trainings for relevant stakeholders. Trainings focus on innovative toxicological analysis techniques, criminal investigation of poisoning incidents, vultures’ rehabilitation and veterinary treatment. Some of the trainings will take place abroad and some in Cyprus with invited participants from relevant stakeholder groups.

Promote project Replicability and Transferability

To ensure replication and transfer of project results to other contexts/entities/regions, the project team at the early stages of the project will prepare a replicability and transferability plan. The plan will explore the extent to which project methods can be applied on other species or sites , which of the project’s approaches/methods are the most suitable to transfer and replicate, and how these methods can be transferred and/or replicated.

At a later stage of the project, to ensure efficient transfer of knowledge detailed ‘how to’ guides (Toolkit) will be created for all conservation actions implemented under this project. Once ready, this ‘Toolkit’ will be available upon request to interested parties.

As part of this effort, the project will organize a series of workshops to present the detail of concrete conservation methods applied and the contents of the relevant Toolkits.

Awareness raising and dissemination

In order to raise awareness among stakeholders and target groups of the critical status of the Griffon Vulture in Cyprus, its importance for the ecosystem, the threats it faces and the importance of the Natura 2000 network, the project foresees a comprehensive dissemination package and targeted awareness raising activities.

Information material:

To achieve mobilization of stakeholders in this great conservation effort as well as raise awareness among targeted audiences, the project will create information material (such as this website, leaflets, posters, notice boards, pin badges, T-shirts), powerful audiovisual material in a layman’s form and will have a strong presence in social media and conventional media.

Communication campaign:

Realising that local communities within Griffon Vulture sites, hunters and livestock managers are among the key project stakeholders, the project will implement a targeted communication campaign through meetings and events, focusing on the importance of vultures, the ecosystems services vultures provide, the threats they face, the importance of the Natura 2000 network and how local communities can contribute to the effort. The project team will also be present at the Cyprus Hunting Fair.

Events:

A series of events will take place to celebrate the wonder of nature and for people to learn about vultures. World Biodiversity Day and International Vulture Awareness Day are some of the opportunities to spread the message of nature conservation. Towards the end of the project, the project team will organize a screening of the documentary produced as part of the project as well as a photo exhibition of project highlights captured throughout the project.

Networking:

To ensure exchange of knowledge, experience and best practice, the project will organize a conference in Cyprus with invited key participants across Europe who are working on similar aspects to the LIFEwithVultures project. The project also foresees project participation in the European Anti-poison Dog Units meeting.

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