Back From Brink of Extinction

Europe’s largest bird of prey makes comeback after being nearly wiped out.


Cinereous vulture

Europe’s largest and heaviest raptor, the cinereous vulture, once lived across the entire breadth of Europe, but numbers have declined over the last 200 years largely due to inadvertent poisoning, leaving fragmented populations clinging on.


But later this year the birds, also known as the black vulture, will return to the skies above the Rhodope mountain range, which stretches through southeastern Europe along the southern border of Bulgaria and into northeastern Greece.


The reintroduction is thanks to a rewilding project which has already relocated 17 of the birds from Spain, which are now being temporarily held in a large purpose-built aviary until they can be released, and hopefully help re-establish the species in the region.


Cinereous vultures are considered a “keystone species” within the mountain ecosystem, and focus their feeding on carcasses of small animals. This is considered an essential role, rapidly removing and recycling the bodies of dead animals, helping to halt the spread of diseases such as anthrax and rabies.


The enormous birds can have a wingspan of over 3 metres (9 and a half feet) and weigh more than 14kg (30 pounds).

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Europe: Wildlife Making a Comeback. In the first half of the 20th century, many wild mammals in Europe were on the verge of extinction. Now, most are flourishing again.