Lozère: two more bearded vultures in the sky of the Grands Causses

Two 97- and 93-day-old chicks were reintroduced to Meyrueis on Monday May 9. They join the eleven other raptors of the same species still alive and released since 2012.

They are the 31st and 32nd bearded vultures reintroduced in the south of the Massif Central since 2012. This Monday, May 9, Rock and Roi des Causses, two male chicks aged 97 and 93 days, born in Haute-Savoie and the Czech Republic, were released on the Causse Méjean, above Meyrueis.

The two scavengers thus join their eleven other congeners returned to nature, in ten years, and still alive. This highlight is the new result of close collaboration between the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO), the Cévennes National Park (PNC) and the Grands Causses Regional Natural Park (PNRGC) within the European Life Gypconnect program.

Four species of vultures present

The four species of vultures found in France – bearded vultures, griffon, monk and Egyptian vultures – all thrive on the Grands Causses, between Lozère and Aveyron.

“It’s called the Necrophagous Raptor Guild, explains Léa Giraud, head of the Grands Causses branch for the LPO. It is the procession of scavengers. The four species complement each other in the consumption of a corpse.”

The bearded vulture, on the other hand, intervenes last and takes care of devouring the bones. When the latter are too hard, it then takes altitude to break them on the ground. Which earned him the nickname “bone breaker”.

“The principle of these reintroductions is to strengthen the species at the national level, explains Léa Giraud, head of the Grands Causses branch of the LPO. Currently, its breeding population is still low. The populations are particularly dispersed on the territory. There is very little interaction between them.”

In all, only 80 pairs have been identified in France. “At the historical level, the bearded vulture has survived in the Pyrenees, insists Jocelyn Fonderflick, wildlife officer at the PNC. It exists in Corsica, where its population has fallen sharply. Finally, all the individuals present in the Alps come from a reintroduction program.

According to experts and enthusiasts, who are working for the reintroduction of this raptor with a wingspan of three metres, the south of the Massif Central must play a key role in safeguarding the species. The bearded vultures of the Grands Causses should make it possible to link the populations of the Pyrenees and the Alps, continues Jocelyn Fonderflick. The goal is to promote genetic mixing.

Jean-François Maurin, president of the FDSEA 48: “Regulating the griffon vulture”

What was the purpose of your coming for this release of bearded vultures?

We came, above all, to warn about the management of the griffon vulture. We have nothing against the bearded vulture. However, the fawn was reintroduced a few years ago, and its population is exploding. We have problems everywhere in Lozère and in the neighboring departments. It seems important to us to regulate this population.

If the bearded vulture has nothing to do with the problems you denounce, why did you choose this moment to express yourself?

If we do not regulate the population of griffon vultures, it will be difficult to make farmers understand that there are still new releases, whatever they are. It is absolutely necessary that we discuss with the Cévennes National Park, the LPO and the State services in order to find a solution. Different avenues exist, such as sterilizing eggs or even feeding them less during the breeding period.

Do you think griffon vultures attack livestock directly?

It is certain that they have a deviant behavior when they move away from the causses, where there are rendering plots. Last week we had an attack on a foal in northern Lozère. The vultures even went after the mother. If the breeder had not been there, the mare would also have been killed.

Only one pair of males

Ten years after the first release, a birth in the natural environment is still pending. “It takes them at least seven or eight years before mating, reveals the project manager of the PNC. Then at least another year or two before they can produce a chick that can handle it. Currently we only have one pair, but they are two males. They are probably waiting for a female to form a trio. It’s very common in bearded vultures.”

An ideal natural environment

The fragility of this necrophagous raptor, “iconic and fabulous”, as described by Anne Legile, director of the PNC, explains that 19 individuals did not survive their release. Electric shocks and intentional destruction are among the most frequent accidents. However, southern Lozère and southern Aveyron, breeding grounds par excellence, in a natural environment conducive to nesting, have all the characteristics necessary for the development of these birds. “Rendering plots have even been set up, to deposit the carcasses of animals there so that the bearded vultures, as well as the other vultures, devour them, reminds the manager. They are real breeding aids. The reintroduction of griffon vultures, at the start, was done with the breeders.”

During the next two years of their life, the comings and goings of Rock and Roi des Causses will be scrutinized closely, hoping that they will quickly find a shoe in their greenhouse.

Two schools associated with the reintroduction

The elementary schools of Sainte-Énimie and Lanuéjols were associated with the reintroduction of the two bearded vultures, this Monday, May 9, above Meyrueis.

During this morning dedicated to the two raptors, in the heart of the La Cascade campsite, the students presented all their knowledge about this species. It was particularly a question of nests, made from sheep’s wool and branches.

“There is a craze of the population around bearded vultures, especially with schools”, welcomed Anne Legile, director of the Cévennes National Park.

The children also had the honor of baptizing the two birds. “It’s because he’s big and strong that we called him Rock”, justified a young boy. The second scavenger, Roi des Causses, had a first name that needed no explanation.

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