September 5 Recognized as First International Vulture Awareness Day

Environmental organizations the world over will recognize September 5 as the first International Vulture Awareness Day, in order to raise public awareness of the range of threats faced by these endangered birds of prey. Israel will mark the day with a demonstration of conservation activities for the Griffin Vulture in the Carmel Hai-Bar Nature Reserve.

Several species of vulture in particular, and birds in general, face extinction in recent years following the gradual disappearance of their habitats and death by electrocution and poisoning.

Over the past decade human activity has liquidated 95 percent of the vultures in some southeast Asian and African countries. In Israel the number of vultures nesting in the north has dwindled from 71 couples a decade ago to 29 couples. Birdwatchers in the Judean Desert counted 13 vulture nesting beginnings three months ago, compared to 21 last year.

The Nature and Parks Authority has set up vulture feeding posts to protect the birds from eating poisoned animals in the Judean Desert, Negev and Galilee. The Carmel Hai-Bar operates a vulture propagation and rescue station.

"We saw the vulture nestlings had a problem surviving in the wild mainly due to poisoning," says Yigal Miller, who is in charge of preserving vultures in the reserve.

"So this year we're taking eggs from nests in the Gamla reserve to the hatchery at the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem. We raise them in a facility simulating a nest at the Hai-Bar, then bring them back to Gamla, from where they will be returned to the wild."

On Vulture Awareness Day Miller will demonstrate the workings of the hatchery and simulated nest. Two Griffin Vultures and two Egyptian Vultures will be ceremoniously released back to the wild.

"We've lost two vulture species - the Lappet-faced Vulture and the The Lammergeier [or Bearded Vulture]," says Dr. Yossi Leshem, director of the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration at Latrun. "If we don't act more effectively to preserve these birds, the only way our children will ever see a vulture will be in a zoo or as a stuffed animal."