For the reinforcement of the Cypriot population of Griffon Vultures (Gyps fulvus) with individuals from Crete
The Project 'GYPAS' aims at enriching the extremely small population of the Griffon Vulture in Cyprus with individuals from Crete, so that the population recovers. The project is carried out under the 'Cross Border Cooperation Programme Greece-Cyprus 2007- 2013' and is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and national funds of Greece and Cyprus.
The ‘Gypas’ Project started in September 2011 and will last for 24 months. The programme is led by the Game Fund in Cyprus, and partners in the program are BirdLife Cyprus and the Department of Forestry in Cyprus, and the Natural History Museum of Crete and Gortyna Municipality in Crete.
The actions that will take place as part of the project include building a new holding cage at Limnatis, building two new ‘restaurants’ for Vultures and extending an existing cage in Agios Giannis in Pafos. Furthermore, there will be monitoring of the population, several public awareness-raising activities and the production of informational material.
In Crete, a Vulture rehabilitation centre will be created, for their re-introduction to the wild, and there will be monitoring of the population and public awareness-raising activities.
Lastly, an international conference will be taking place in Cyprus, with the participation of European experts. During the programme, there will be 20-30 vultures sent from Crete to Cyprus.
The population of the Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) in Cyprus has been declining rapidly over the past 20 years. During the 1960s, the population consisted of at least 100 individuals, while the last Vulture population census, which took place in March 2011 and which covered 14 locations in the south-west of the island, showed that the total Vulture population in Cyprus that currently lives in the wild is only between 6-8 birds. Compared to the Cypriot population, the Vulture population of Crete is over 400 individuals.
The reasons for the decline of this species are the targeted actions against Vultures, mortality due to poisoned baits placed for the elimination of foxes and feral dogs, the reduction of food due to the reduction of extensive farming, and disturbance during the nesting period.
Due to the small size of the island, the small Cypriot population is vulnerable to environmental changes and disasters, and inbreeding. The population of Crete is considered healthy, though conservation actions there are also necessary.
Despite the fact that there have been efforts made to help the population of the Griffon Vulture in Cyprus, these have not been successful to the point of safety for this species. According to Cypriot law 152 (Ι) 2003, the species is endangered, and during the past few years only one to two pairs have been reproducing each year, with the fate of the young Vultures still uncertain.
This led the competent authorities in Cyprus (Game Fund, Department of Forests), together with BirdLife Cyprus and others, to draw up a management plan for the Griffon Vulture, whose main aim is the reinforcement of the population with individuals from abroad. Considering that only Greece (Crete) and Spain have populations of this species that can sustain the export of individuals to another country, efforts for a possible partnership with either Greece or Spain had already been in the works for a few years before the start of the project.
Finally, the Vulture population in Crete was considered the most suitable one for the reinforcement of the Cypriot population because it is the closest one genetically and geographically, with similar ecological characteristics.