I. Information on the proposed project
I. 2 Description of the actual Problems, threats and underlying causes
Amongst the Adriatic islands, the Kvarner islands are home to the greatest biodiversity. Plant and animal species richness has been maintained primarily due to specific requirements for the local population living on the island. The extensive method of sheep herding, retained for thousand of years, has enabled proper maintenance of plant and animal species, and thereby promoting the survival of Eurasian Griffons. Their survival is linked to the traditional sheep-farming practice of leaving sheep carcasses in the field to be consumed by the Griffons. Similarly, the cultivation of olives has attributed to this. Consequently this area remains as one of the most ecologically preserved areas in Europe
The Eurasian Griffon, Gyps fulvus, is the only one of four European vulture species that inhabit Croatia. The other three species – the Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus), Bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) and the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) have since gone extinct, Egyptian vulture for almost 20 years, Black vulture for 50 years and Bearded vulture for over 70 years. At the end of nineteenth century these vultures inhabited large areas of the country, particularly along the Dalmatian coast and throughout the the Adriatic islands. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Croatian Griffon population greatly declined, and today they only nest on the Kvarner islands of Cres, Krk, Plavnik, Prvic, and occasionally, the island of Pag.
Currently less than 90 pairs inhabit Croatia. Of this, 80% exist solely on Cres Island (approximately 65 pairs). However Kvarner population startet to decline as well. The Eurasian Griffon is peculiar to the coastal area of Croatia as it breeds exclusively on the cliffs above the sea; some nests are only 8 metres above sea level. Besides this, at the end of September all juvenile birds leave the Croatian colonies and migrate. They use three main directions: North-west to the Austrian and Italian Alps, then France and Spain; South-west to the southern Italy and South-east to Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey, to Israel and as far south as Chad. Unfortunately, illegal poisoning and the disappearance of the extensive traditional sheep farming, as well as human disturbance (as tourism or recreation), near nest sites in the costal zone of Croatia threatens their survival.
· A decrease in the number of sheep, along with a change towards intensive herding practices (winter feeding, lambing in pens, the use of stall enclosures to reduce predation etc.)
· Large-scale, indirect poisoning
· General improvement in veterinary techniques which reduce sheep mortality rate
· Human interference – illegal shooting
· Electrocution when landing on electric cables/telecommunication poles (at least one reported case per year on the island of Cres)
· Disturbance (tourism or recreation near nest-sites) – youngs fell in the sea
· Introduction of alien species as game animals
· Urbanisation and habitat destruction (road building etc.)
· Low productivity (55-60%, i.e. one chick raised every two years)
This remaining fragmented population, which, at the beginning of the last century nested along almost all of the Croatian coastline and within a substantial part of the mainland, is particularly vulnerable due to low recruitment into the population through imigration of other populations from surrounding areas.
The negative trends can only be stopped via the integral protection programme that the NGO Eco-centre Caput Insulae – Beli has conducted for over 10 years.
I. 3 Background of the project
Eco-Centre Caput Insulae-Beli (ECCIB) is a Research and Educational Center for Nature Protection (and an NGO) founded in 1993. and situated in the small historical town of Beli on the Island of Cres. Its fundamental programme is the protection of Griffon Vultures on the Island of Cres and neighbouring islands. During a period of 13 years it has broadened its mission to encompass the overall protection of natural, cultural and historical heritage on the Island.
To accomplish its mission, ECCIB has created seven interrelated programmes:
· Integral protection of Griffon Vultures
· Protection of biodiversity, mainly freshwater ponds and forest
· Protection of historical and cultural heritage
· Educational programme
· Volunteer programme
· Eco-tourism programme
· Program of Interpretation centre about biodiversity and Griffon vultures
Preceding projects and activities:
- in 1996 the Griffon Vulture Recovery Centre was built, with more than 70 birds having since undergone recovery here, out of which more than 60 Eurasian Griffons, as well as other autochthonous species of raptors (e.g. buzzards, golden eagle, tawny owl). They were brought in requiring recovery, rehabilitation, continuous care, or stayed temporary (e.g. a one-year stay for seven Griffons brought in from Zagreb Zoo).
- Two quarantine cages were built.
- Food provision for Griffons on the island of Cres, which has since been intensified from 1998, positively correlating to an increase in chick survival. In 2001 a feeding site on Cres was established, with a provision of 105 tons of food over the course of two years.
- An ornithological lookout point was built on the feeding site for observation of Griffon feeding and social behaviour.
- Initiated the implementation of protective measures to reduce disturbance to prime Griffon breeding habitat (marking the reserves with warning notice boards etc.)
- The rescue of sick, poisoned, injured or emaciated birds
- The proposal of solutions to problems which threaten the endangered Griffon population to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and to the other relevant Institutions and NGOs.
- Determination of the causes of Griffon mortality, on the basis of which to conduct adequate conservation measures.
- The running of educational programs for children and students, to introduce them to the biodiversity of the Cres and Losinj archipelago, the history of the Tramuntana region, and the ecology and conservation practices of Eurasian Griffons.
- Through the Eco-tourism program we educate visitors about the biology of Eurasian Griffons, the biodiversity of the region, thereby promoting the involvement in the protection of natural and cultural-historical heritage of the island of Cres. Through tourist involvement in local activities (picking of olives, repairing of dry stone walls and old trails, sheep handling activities), we sensitise the public to a variety of protection programs, educating the public about the ecological value of certain ecosystems, about endangered species and methods of their conservation.
- Continual education of participating volunteers who are actively involved in the Eurasian Griffon conservation. Volunteers work on the cleaning of the ponds (which are used as a water source for the sheep - eutrophication directly affects sheep keeping - which are in turn the primary food source for Griffons). Volunteers also work on the repairing and maintenance of the educational Eco-trails aimed to enable tourists to observe birds, rare animals and plants. These Eco-trails were originally old paths since revived, which pass through the typical landscape of the island (which, since overgrowth of vegetation, neither sheep can access the distant pastures which became impassable, thereby resulting in the decrease in the number of the sheep and therefore indirectly the availability of food for Griffons). Volunteers also participate in the repairing of the drystone walls to preserve the characteristic and traditional methods of fencing off pastures whilst preserving the original landscape. Volunteers are in charge of the monitoring of Griffon nests and the recording of behaviour at the feeding place, and are also involved in work concerning the Rehabilitation centre activities and maintenance of the Vulture restaurant
- Co-operation with local inhabitants, while promoting the holistic approach to nature protection and preservation of their traditional methods of sheep herding. This educates the local community on the importance of caring of vulture nesting sites and leaving carcasses alone to contribute to the food source for Griffons.
- With the co-operation of other NGOs from Croatia, courses in weaving, stitching and felt production for the Cres community were organised. From this, the establishment of a NGO working towards the improvement of woman’s status on Cres Island and for the quality of life resulted. Proposals for local sheep wool products from Cres were successful. This actively solved the problem of scrap wool wastage, and simultaneously promoted and encouraged continuation in sheep herding, thereby maintaining the food source for Griffons on the island.
- Through public awareness and increasing media presence and interest, this educates the public on the causes of mortality, importance of conservation and protection measures.
- Active co-operation with the Cres Ornithological Station of the Institute for Ornithology of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, which has conducted scientific programs monitoring and researching Griffon colonies since 1990, as well as conducting programs for the ringing and wing-tagging of juvenile Griffons on the Kvarner islands. More than 500 Griffons were marked using wing tags and metal rings with a serial number. In addition the birds were also given a green plastic ring implemented in 2001, following a large-scale international project: 'The East-Alpine/East-European Mediterranean Griffon Vulture Working Group' (EGVWG).
- Nesting sites in the three established colonies are monitored monthly.
- Running of the exhibition about Eurasian Griffons at the Eco-center (ECCIB) in Beli (“Do you want reality or myth? –the story about Griffon vulture”)
- Publication of brochures, postcards, stickers and other promotional materials to increase awareness of Griffon protection.
I. 4 Geographical position.
Figure 1. Project area (Kvarner Archipelago are: Cres, Krk, Prvić and Rab islands – blue spot) and some locations of re-sighted wing-tagged Croatian Griffons (red spots) along Mediterrannean countries, but Chad in Africa and Netherlands and Poland in North Europe as well.
Figure 2. Decline of Griffons colonies distribution in less than 40 years period. Colonies in middle Dalmatian coast (NP Paklenica, Island of Pag) as well as southern colonies (near Dubrovnik, and southern Herzegovina along Neretva River) disappeared at the end of 90’s. Today only colonies on four Kvarner Archipelago islands still exists.
I. 5 Objectives/Aims/ Goals
The goal of our project is to protect one of Europe’s most important and unique colony of Griffon vultures in situ, as well as the protection of juvenile, immature and sub-adult birds during migration.
We will achieve these goals by running the Anti-poisoning campaign, continuing with the aims of the Recovery centre, and through monitoring of Griffon mortality. Focus should also encompass ensuring food availability at feeding sites, increasing the reproductive rate and recruitment success of juveniles through the protection of adult nests at each colony at each island (Islands at Kvarner Archipelago: Cres, Krk, Prvic and Plavnik), increase the survival rate of the sub-adults by decreasing mortality of juveniles (by rescuing them from the sea), educating the public (local inhabitants), cleaning and maintaining ponds serving as water sources for sheep and Griffons, minimising threats caused by human activities, monitoring nesting sites, marking, ringing and monitoring of birds, running ecotourism activities, establishing Griffon-information centres, Griffon protection education, promotion of extensive sheep herding methods, maintaining pastures, dry stonewalls and shepherd' trails, and finally, the modification of electricity poles to avoid electrocution.
We are going to achieve some of these objectives during the year 2006. by three actions:
1. Establish Antipoisoning campaign together with the NGOs for nature protection and animals welfare, hunting associations, Ministry of culture – Unit for nature protection and Ministry of environmental protection, to form a model of Antipoisoning campaign accompanied with integral protection of biodiversity.
2. Increase the number of Vulture restaurants for Griffons at the mainland (Velebit Mountain) and at the islands of Rab and Krk, to increase survival rate of subadults (juveniles after reaching independence from parents and other age classes during spring and autumn migration over the area), to avoid the lack of natural food and potential poisoning.
3. Maintenance of the Recovery center and buying a boat for rescuing young birds which fall from the nest in the sea.
Action No# 3: Maintenance of the Recovery center
Description (what, how and where):
The Recovery Center was established by building the first Aviary cage for Griffons 1996 to be used mainly as a hospital for injured birds. Today, it is placed behind the ECCIB building in Beli, and serve for healing, rehabilitation and temporary and permanent dwelling of Griffons. During 2002 as a part of Recovery center two separate quarantines for new birds were built.
Since the start of work of Recovery center, for more than 70 birds the care was provided, out of which more than 60 Eurasian Griffons, and some other raptor species as buzzard, golden eagle, tawny owl. All those birds were brought on the healing, rehabilitation, permanent care or were there situated temporary.
Reasons why the boat is necessary:
Program of Griffons protection carried by ECCIB, in one part encompass care for injured, sick, emaciated birds which need adequate care and healing up to their eventually release back into nature. Many Griffons felt to the sea due to disturbance by tourists who climb on the cliffs or anchored boat under the cliff and stay there for whole day, or due to poisoning. They can be rescued with speed boat. Those Griffons should be under treatment, which includes care, cleaning, feeding, cleaning and maintenance of cages, healing, external parasites removal for several months and then we release them in the nature.
Expected results: more young birds rescued, survival rate increased.
As there are only 40 nestlings per year at the Island of Cres, even if we will be able to rescue (with the new boat) only 5 Griffons more than usualy, it is 12.5% of all fledged juvenile birds!
Project Costs (the total cost of the boat): 148.000,00 kn or 20.000,00 EURO
Plan for financing
Responsible Person for implementing it: Goran Susic, PhD.