The Egyptian Vulture is distinctive because of its typically light colour, and yellow head with ruffled feathers at the crown. It is currently the most endangered type of European vulture, and has been listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List since 2007. One of the reasons the species in endangered is that the migrant birds are often illegally poisoned or shot on their travels in some African and European countries. Another reason for their status is the fact that they eat animals shot by lead pellets, which cause heavy metal poisoning.
Prague Zoo has been keeping a studbook for this species since 2002 and a European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) since 2012.
Vultures in Prague
The first vultures came to Prague in 1936. They were bred in Prague ZOO until the 1970s, when there was a pause in breeding.
The next Egyptian Vulture, a male that you can still see in the zoo to this day, came in 1993. In the year 2000, he mated with a female, who came from Riga in 1998 and who was originally from the wild. They became the first pair of vultures who reared a chick. Since then, three pairs of vultures have been regularly reproducing in Prague Zoo. And now, Prague ZOO is helping to restore the vulture population in the Balkans.
From Prague to the Balkans
According to Miroslav Bobek, the director of Prague Zoo, the Balkan Peninsula is an important link between the eastern and western populations of this vulture species. However, there are now less than thirty pairs of Egyptian Vultures in Bulgaria. Since 2013, Prague Zoo has been cooperating with Green Balkans, a leading organisation in the field of the conservation of rare species and habitats in Bulgaria, on increasing the numbers of Egyptian Vultures in Bulgaria. Czechs participated in the construction of breeding aviaries, and they have been participating in the experimental project of releasing vultures back into the wild since 2016. To date, thirteen vultures have flown to the Bulgarian mountains, eight of them bred in Prague Zoo.
The last two vultures, two females, one of which was hatched at Zoo Zlín, have a new home in the Eastern Rhodope Mountains, where they will strengthen the population of this endangered species. So far, breeders have placed them on an artificial nest on a rocky niche, overlooking the Arda River, where they will acclimatise before their release to the Bulgarian mountains. Local conservationists will continue to monitor their movements.
Two chicks of Lilly and Andy, a breeding couple from Prague Zoo who were transported to the breeding and rescue station in Stara Zagora in Bulgaria this February, will fly along with them.
In Prague, vultures can be found in Janda's Aviary at the bottom of the zoo.
For further information, please visit: https://www.zoopraha.cz/en.