Conservation Status

640px-NeophronMap.svgDistribution: The Egyptian vulture is an Indo-African species present in the circum-Mediterranean region (South Europe and North Africa), sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and dry regions of Central Asia and India. There are several Island populations: Mallorca, Menorca and Sicily in the Mediterranean, Socotra (Yemen) and Masirah (Oman) in the Arabian Sea, and the east archipelagos of Canary Islands and Cape Verde.  Three sub-species have been recognized: N.p. percnopterus, occurring in most of the species-range (Europe, Africa, Middle East, central Asia and northwest India),  N.p. ginginianus, occurring in most of the Indian sub-continent (Salím and Ripley, 1978) and N.p. majorensis, restricted to the island of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote (Donazar et al. 2002).

Population numbers: The species is qualified as ‘globally endangered’ owing to severe declines throughout its entire range since the end of the 20th century. The current world population has been recently estimated at 13.000-41.000 mature individuals (Birdlife International). The species has disappeared from broad regions of southern Europe (>50% over the last 50 years) and the Balkans (80% in the last 30 years), and continues to decline in key-populations in Spain and Turkey (but see Tauler et. al 2015). It underwent large declines in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and India (only few thousand pairs left). In some countries like Oman and Yemen the populations seem stable. In Europe the total number of breeding pairs is estimated around 3.300-5050 (25-49% of the global population), most of them in Spain (± 1350) (Birdlife International).

Nine Archipelagos

Island populations: Island populations have experienced strong reductions and the species has vanished from most islands in the Mediterranean sea, including Cyprus, Crete, Malta and Corsica-Sardinia (Levy 1996). Breeding populations are currently only found on the Balearic islands (Mallorca and Menorca) and Sicily. The species was once abundant in the Macaronesic archipelago, but has almost completely disappeared from the Cape Verde. On the Canary Islands it disappeared from La Gomera in 1955 and from Gran Canaria and Tenerife in the late 80’s (Martin 1987). It was probably also present in the Western islands of El Hierro and La Palma, as is suggested by local topographic names (Delgado 1999). Today, it only survives on Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. In the Azores (Le Grand 1983) and in Madeira (Bannerman & Bannerman 1965) it is only an accidental visitor. Egyptian vultures are still common in the archipelagos of the Western Indic Ocean as Socotra and Mashira (Porter and Suleiman 2012; Angelov et al. 2013; Gangoso et al. 2013).

Fondo FEDAC. GC. 09037

Photo taken taken on Gran Canaria in the early 20th century. Egyptian vultures disappeared from the island in the late 80’s

Global Threats

In general, large-scale threats include:

  • Incidental poisoning with baits aimed to kill carnivores
  • Collisions with windfarms
  • Electrocution by powerlines
  • Use of agricultural chemicals impoverishing biodiversity
  • Deterioration and loss of habitat
  • Shortage of food through changes in livestock management (stabling of livestock)
  • Sanitary practices which prohibit the abandoning of carcasses in the field
  • Veterinary practices. The food now available to vultures increasingly contains veterinary drugs, mainly antibiotics. An extreme example is the use of diclofenac, which causes renal failure and may directly kill vultures. The use of this veterinary drug is thought to be responsible for the crash of Egyptian vultures, like many other vulture populations across the Indian subcontinent (up to 90% in some species).

These affect vultures not only on their breeding grounds, but also along their migration routes and in wintering areas.


References

Angelov  I., Yotsova T., Sarrouf M., McGrady D.Y  (2013) Large increase of the Egyptian vulture Neophron percnopterus population on Masirah island, Oman. Sandgrouse 35 140-152

Bannerman D.A., Bannerman W.M. (1968). Birds of the Atlantic Islands, vol. II. A History of the Birds of Madeira, the Desertas and the Porto Santos Islands. Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh & London.

Delgado G. (1999) Guirre. Gran Enciclopedia Canaria, tomo VII. Ediciones Canarias, Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Donázar J.A., Palacios C.J., Gangoso L., Ceballos O., Gonzalez M.J. Hiraldo F. (2002) Conservation status and limiting factors in the endangered population of Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in the Canary Islands. Biological Conservation 107:89-97.

Gangoso L., Agudo R., Anadon J.D. de la Riva M., Suleyman A.S., Porter R., Donázar J.A. (2013) Reinventing mutualism between humans and wild fauna: insights from vultures as ecosystem services providers. Conservation Letters 6:172-179

Le Grand G. (1983) Checklist of the birds of the Azores. Archípelago 4:49:58

Levy N. (1996) Present status, distribution and conservation trends of the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in the Mediterranean countries and adjacent arid regions. In: Muntaner, J., Mayol, J. (Eds.), Biology and Conservation of Mediterranean Raptors (Monografıa 4). Sociedad Espanola de Ornitologıa, Palma de Mallorca, pp. 13–33.

Martin A. (1987) Atlas de las aves nidificantes en la isla de Tenerife. Instituto de Estudios Canarios. Monografia XXXII. Tenerife

Porter R.F., Suleiman A.S. (2012) The Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus on Socotra, Yemen: population, ecology, conservation and ethno-ornithology. Sandgrouse 34:44-62

Sálim A.,  Ripley, S.D. (1978) Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan, Volume 1 (2 ed.).

Tauler H., Real J., Hernández-Matías, Aymerich P., Baucells J., Martorell C., Santandrue J.  (2015) Identifying key demographic parameters for the viability of a growing population of the endangered Egyptian Vulture  Neophron percnopterus. Bird Conservation International 25:426-439.

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