Tackling power line threats faced by raptor populations.

Electric powerlines represent a major mortality threat for large raptors. The majority of cause involve collisions and electrocutions. Many cases are recoreded annually by LPO Grands Causses in Aveyron and Lozère. One of the objectives of this project is to reduce the threat that powerlines qnd their associated structures represent by regularly checking them in the area concerned. Each line which has caused a raptors death is the focus of a report compolied by LPO Grands Causses and submitted to Enedis. An agreement between these two bodies oblige Enedis to react accordingly in such a case and that the structure or line involved is fitted with protective equipment to reduce the risk of collisions and electrocution (firefly, spirals, insulating sleeves, vertical pegging). Maps highlighting mortality cases and operations to protect powerlines in the area are frequently updated and made avaliale to both organisations. Bearded vultures and cinereous vultures equipped with GPS tracking tags provide a precise insight into the vultures movements and their territories can be mapped. Such information is vital for LPO Grands Causses to provide the necessary information to state and territorial bodies to take informed decisions on the emplacement of powerlines.

Vulture food resource management

Vulture populations in the Grands Causses are closely linked to the availability of food ressources which is reliant on the activity of pastoral livestock being upheld. But, the number of livestock farmers is decreasing significantly, intensive farming is becoming more widespread and the public rendering service has become industrialised. These factors have reduced food ressource availability for vultures . For many years in the Massif Central, LPO Grands Causses has been working to maintain the food ressource availabilty that is required to sustain the vulture populations present here. This is being carried out through various actions: 1)Historic establishment of a collective feeding station “Charnier de Cassagne” set up during the first griffon vulture reintroduction. LPO Grands Causses provide locally a rendering service to aliment this, and another, feeding station. 2) Creation support for authorised individual feeding platforms run by livestock farmers themselves. These platforms are extremely important for maintaining a strong relationship between farmers and vultures who recover their natural role as renderers. 3) Specific feeding platform implementation for bearded vulture and cinereous vulture. This approach relies on the interspecific competition hypothesis about food accessibility between Griffon vulture and the other scavengers. Meat and bone is placed at selected sites suitable for both species. LPO Grands Causses monitors the efficiency of these specific platforms by using camera traps which also allows identification of individuals of each species through leg ring readings.

Egyptian vulture conservation program

This species is registered as “Endangered” on the IUCN European Red List, on the Appendix II of CITES and Annex I of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. The two main threats to the species are direct mortality caused by humans (either accidentally or deliberately) and decreasing availability of food. The main cause of unnatural death is the use of poisoned baits for carniverous pest extermination.
This vulture belongs to the scavengers group, it has a broad diet including carrion, tortoises, organic waste, insects, young vertebrate and eggs. The Egyptian vulture monitoring in the Massif Central began in 1981 conciding with the start of the first griffon vulture reintroduction project here . During this period no more than 7-8 indivuals are counted each year in the Grands Causses. In 2017 the population of Egyptian vulture in the Grands Causses is only represented by two breeding pairs. The Egyptian vulture’s uniqueness is that it is the only migratory species of the four european vultures.
The various actions regarding this project and carried out by LPO Grands Causses (technical structure of LPO France) are: home range monitoring (visual observations), breeding monitoring (fchecking established breeding pairs and detecting new pairs , the laying date and the juvenile fledging date), diet study by collecting elements near the nests, ensuring sufficient quantities of local and externally sourced food are available (livestock farms using rendering plots, fallen livestock collection to aliment a vulture feedind station run by LPO Grands Causses team), habitat protection (influence political decisions in terms of protection: creation of SPA-special protection area and other protection status), vigilance and threat management (hunting, poisoning, powerlines and wind turbines…), public awareness through various audiences.

Improving public perception of vultures

This project aimes to improve the public perception of vultures and to reintegrate the interdependant role they play within our society. In order to do this LPO Grands Causses is developing various communication platforms. A range of communication tools are regularly updated: posters, pamphlets, information panels on sign-posted paths, documentaries, dispalys etc. All of these are these are diffused at events organised by LPO Grands Causses and partner organisations throughout the entire area concerned (Aveyron, Lozere, Ardeche, Gard, Herault): conferences, seminars, open days, school field trips, stands at events organised by local authorities. This is to engage with a broad audience of stakeholders with regards to vultures, awareness raising is directed at very different levels: schools, local authorities, livestock farmers, hunters, politicians, general public, tourists…
The population of griffon vultures is currently expanding and their foraging area has enlarged as a result. This has brought them into areas where people aren’t used to seeing vultures so it is important for LPO Grands Causses to raise awareness in these places. We now hope to develop our communication and awareness raising activities over a much wider area and improve the public perception of vultures.

Tackling poisoning threats in raptor populations.

Poisoning of vultures is becoming increasingly frequent and represents a worldwide threat to all vulture populations. This man-made threat can be inflicted directly or indirectly upon vultures. Certain anti-inflammatory drugs used on domestic animals and remain present in their carcasses and can be toxic or life-threatening for vultures feeding upon them. Vultures can also be intoxicated by other substances artificially found within their bodies. Illegal shooting of large raptors remains an issue, even when not fatal, the shots can inflict sequelas or the side effects of the subsequent lead poisoning can remain latent. LPO Grands Causses aims to sytematically recover any dead vultures or other large raptor species for autopsy and veterinary analysis to determine the presence of leador other toxins. The second aspect of this project involves developing a routine for daily monitoring and awareness raising with various stakeholders: livestock farmers, farming bodies, local autorities, an hunters. Trials of lead-free ammunition are underway having been developed and executed in partnership with the Cevennes National Park, LPO Grands CAusses and the Hunters Federation of Lozere within the framework of a project supported by the European Commission .

Tackling wind turbine threats faced by raptor populations.

The politics of sustainable development encourage the creation of structures that produce renewable energy. In Aveyron, wind turbines have developed which in turn has created a mortality risk for the populations of large raptors found here. Many cases of death caused by wind farms have been recorded by local environmental organisations, mainly due to collisions. One of the objectives of this project is to reduce the threat posed by wind turbines, and particularly by wind farms, by applying regular and rigourours monitoring throughout the area concerned. Each turbine that has been proven to have been the cause of death of a large raptor is subject to a report written by LPO Grands Causses (to which structures?). LPO Grands Causses remains vigilant regarding the development of new wind farm projects on its territory. GPS trakers which allow precise monitoring of movements have been placed on bearded vultures and some cinereous vultures and providing precise data to allow territory mapping. Such information is vital for LPO Grands Causses to provide the necessary information to state and territorial bodies to take informed decisions on the emplacement of powerlines.