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last update: September 16, 2006

Tracking Griffon Vultures with GPS

Riserva naturale del Lago di Cornino


Christian Walzer University of Vienna

Fulvio Genero Riserva naturale del Lago di Cornino




While the population of the Eurasian Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) in the western European range (Iberian peninsula, France) increased 4-fold during the past two decades, populations in the eastern European and Mediterranean range must be considered endangered and are extinct in many parts of their former distribution range. Due to this highly worrying development, the Eastern European/Mediterranean Griffon Vulture Working Group working group (EGVWG – www.gyps.org) was established in 2000. An evaluation of the current status and distribution of the griffon vulture in the eastern distribution range is deemed essential. Furthermore, an Action Plan has been formulated. While aware of the fact that all old vulture species are endangered in this geographic range, we perceived the Eurasian Griffon Vultures as the species that has received the least attention to date. We want stress the fact that though this species is still widely distributed and more abundant when compared with other vulture species it must be considered endangered. Generally all activities and actions performed for the griffon vulture (and suggested in the action plan) are highly beneficial for the other old world vulture species.

Today the total population size equals some 20.000 breeding pairs. But only 10% of the population is found outside the Iberian Peninsula (Del Moral & Marti, 2001). While Spain, Portugal and France (the latter with a high percentage of successfully reintroduced colonies) are mainly confronted with management problems, urgent conservation problems, requiring action, are evident in the rest of the range. The main threats for the Eurasian Griffon Vulture population are poisoning, lack of food, changes of land use practices with decreasing numbers of domestic and wild ungulates, electrocution, disturbance, persecution (shooting and egg robbing).

The GPS-GSM tags are presently helping us demonstrate the interconnectivity of the eastern European and Mediterranean range of the Griffon Vulture. This is essential in order to demonstrate that poisoning incident does not “only” have a local effect but impacts the entire eastern population. Furthermore, if we can clearly show that we are dealing with a single, highly mobile population we will have to re-evaluate the present day census numbers. 



Chris Walzer and Stefan Hoby fixing GPS-GSM tag on a griffon vulture. The vulture is anaesthetized with isofluran and air in order to make correct placement easier





The GPS GSM backpack is fixed on the Griffon




The movement of the griffon vulture from May to November 2006 is shown on the next map:










Author's address:


Prof Dr Christian Walzer: Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology,
Univ. of Veterinary Medicine Vienna. www.fiwi.at.



Fulvio Genero: La Riserva Naturale Regionale Lago di Cornino http://www.parks.it/riserva.lago.cornino/par.html