Three decades after the creation of a reintroduction programme in the Mercantour for the European bearded vulture, an extremely endangered bird, Prince Albert visited the site to see the success story in action.
The European bearded vulture is one of the most endangered species on the continent and was extinct in the Southern Alps from the start of the 20th century. Only a few breeding pairs were known to be in existence in the Pyrenees and it seemed as if the regal bird was going to go the way of the dinosaur.
That is until ornithologists and concerned citizens stepped in to try and bring back the declining population. Efforts have been successful and the bearded vulture is now protected at a European level.
Locally, a reintroduction scheme was hatched in the Mercantour that saw three of the endangered birds released near Roubion in 1993. Two years later, a fourth bird was added to the group, and releases of new vultures continued in various places around the Alpes-Maritimes in subsequent years.
The result is that a total of 45 young bearded vultures have been released in the Southern Alps. 25 births have been clocked, although there may well have been more. It is now estimated that 40 pairs of the species are thriving in the region, with five of those pairs regularly seen.
The work continues with designated protected breeding sites in place and monitoring systems to track mortality rates, the impact of pollution and genetic information set up. Awareness programmes on the importance and plight of the bearded vulture have also been released.
30th ANNIVERSARY AND ROYAL TREATMENT
The 30th anniversary of concerted efforts are certainly something worth celebrating and Prince Albert II, whose Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation has been a part of the programme to preserve the bearded vulture since 2007, met with the president of the Alpes-Maritimes department, Charles Ange Ginésy, in Saint-Dalmas-le-Selvage to commemorate the occasion at the start of July.
“I would like to thank His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco for honouring us with his presence,” said Ginésy in his speech. “Everyone is aware of his powerful commitment to protecting our planet. A few months ago, we walked through the Roure Arboretum together, and he provided invaluable support for our efforts to reintroduce the bearded vulture.”
The Prince was able to witness a bearded vulture nest via a telescope, before heading to the Camp des Fourches to tour the murals there, which was followed by a picnic in the countryside.
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Photos via the Fondation Prince Albert II de Monaco