Saving an Egyptian vulture – the story of Anna
A guest blog by Volen Arkumarev
This is the story of a young Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus called Anna. She was born and raised in captivity in Prague Zoo but is among those privileged birds which were given the chance to live in the wild and face the challenges of being a free-living Egyptian Vulture. We aim to find the best release technique for this endangered species and apply it in a restocking program for the recovery of the Egyptian Vulture population on the Balkan Peninsula.
At the age of only two months we placed Anna together with another chick in a specially built adaptation hack on the cliffs of Madzharovo in the Eastern Rhodopes. She spent 3 weeks in the hack adapting to the local conditions, memorizing the scenery and observing the wild vultures flying nearby. She didn’t have the support of her parents during the critical period of the first flight but we were always there for her – a team of devoted people readily providing the best possible care.
One morning we opened the hack and it was time for Anna to make the biggest step in her life – a whole new world full of challenges was waiting outside and she has just to spread her wings and jump embracing the uncertainty. In September, Anna started the biggest and most important journey of her life – the first migration. She found the right way through Turkey but chose a very demanding migration strategy – starting earlier in the morning than the other vultures and travelling greater distances per day without feeding anywhere on her way. Eventually, she reached southern Turkey near the city of Mersin where bad weather with strong winds and rain forced her to stop. In the next 3 days Anna was forced to remain still due to the harsh weather conditions. However, even after the wind gusts calmed down and the other migrating birds continued south, Anna remained stationary on the same steep mountain slope.
At that time I was conducting raptor migration count not far away from the place where Anna dropped. The data from her transmitter was showing that she is alive but obviously there was a problem and we immediately organized a rescue mission. Together with my colleagues from Doga Dernegi (The BirdLife International partner in Turkey) we headed towards the last location of Anna and after thorough search we found her soaked to the bone in a cliff niche on the ground filled with water.
She has been starving for long and found this natural pond where at least could drink water and keep herself hydrated. Her weight was only 1440 g or about 500 g under the normal weight for her age, she was absolutely skinny and exhausted! We immediately transported her to our house where we could take proper care of her. As a result of the very nutritious diet, Anna gained 240 g of weight for only 3 days.
However, we decided that it would be best if Anna is transported back to Bulgaria, which was an absolute nightmare. Months were passing and tens of emails, explanations and messages were exchanged between organizations, veterinarians and authorities. Documents were issued, processed, transferred, signed but Anna was patiently waiting for the moment of her comeback. Finally, with the efforts of so many dedicated people, a year after she was rescued, Anna was transported back from Turkey to Bulgaria.
She is a precious bird and even though she won’t be released back in the wild she once had the chance to taste the freedom. Now she has another important mission – to pair with another Egyptian Vulture and some day to raise her own chicks which will have the chance to be released in the wild nature of Bulgaria.
We thank to all people and organizations involved who helped this story to find its happy end – BSPB, Green Balkans, Doga Dernegi, Prague Zoo, Faruk Yalcin Zoo, Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Karacabey, General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks of Turkey, Ministry of Agricultural and Forestry of Turkey, Ministry of Environment and Waters of Bulgaria, Bulgarian Agency of Food Safety, Sofia Zoo, volunteer veterinarians.