Bearded Vulture

Sans titre - 4-01-01

Description

The bearded vulture, also known as Lammergeyer, is a big bird of prey reaching a scale of about 3 meters for a weight from 5 to 7 kg. It distinguishes itself during flight by the contrast of its plumage: agrey under wings, white with orangy color on the head and the stomach and a necklace of black feathers which decorates the base of the neck.

Traditional name: Merz Ikhsan (breaker of bones)

Habitat and distribution: the bearded vulture is generaly found in mountains interrupted with steep valleys, cliffs and high plateaus. The height seems not to matter because it can be observed near the seaside up to the summits of Himalaya. The bearded vulture is present in Europe in the Alps and Pyrenees, in North Africa, in Asia, in the Middle East, in Iran and up to China.

Food: its diet consists almost exclusively of bones, tendons, ligaments and legs of ungulates which it digests thanks to very powerful gastric acids. These food leftovers being abandoned by the other carrion feeders, it confers it a serious advantage. It uses rocky pieces to smash bones by releasing them during flight and can gobble up whole bones being 35 mm in diameter and until 25cm of length.

Vérouet_Jeune Derborence 2011b_F. BiollazThreats: its special physical appearance gave birth to several legends which conferred it demonic properties. The fear of people in front of this impressive bird of prey thus played a role in the decrease of its populations. Today it is especially a victim of the division of his habitats, collisions with electric cables, disturbances caused by planes and helicopters during the nesting, and poisonings. The latter are either aimed directly against it by shepherds persuaded that it attacks the herds, or against other predators (fox, dogs) on which it feeds afterward.


Conservation

In Morocco the specy is critically endangered according to the statutes of the IUCN list and is present only in a single protected zone, the Toubkal National Park. Formerly present in the Middle Atlas, Saharan Atlas and Anti-Atlas, there are only 2 sub-populations known in the High Atlas, as well as one maybe in the oriental part of the Middle Atlas. Besides the Moroccan population of bearded vultures represents probably the last population present in the Maghreb countries.
Moutain Propre, in close collaboration with the Toubkal National Park and the biologist Fabrice Cuzin, has been driving on from more than 2 years a program of follow-up and control of the bearded vultures in the park, thanks to the private financing generously offered by Mike McHugo and ” The Kasbah of Toubkal”. However the difficulty of access in numerous zones of the park makes the observations very difficult and the lack of data establishes one of the main concern…

DSC05033Among the realized projects: a feeding zone around the refuges of height was set up in winter to avoid the dispersal of bearded vultures towards unchecked and unprotected zones; a shelter is under construction on the feeding site to gather more observations and pictures; the guard of the French Alpine Club (CAF) refuge at the foot of mount Toubkal has been trained and harvests several data; an awareness campaign is in progress in the valley and in the park.

Among the planned projects: the training of other guards of refuges and guides for the observation of bearded vultures and for harvesting more data; the creation of a real project of participative preservation by involving the numerous trekkers and amateur ornithologists of passage in the park (awareness campaigns, distribution of index forms of observation, call for pictures, etc.); a vast awareness campaign within the shepherds; the specy highlight within the heritage of the region; the mobilization of the international scientific community; etc.

Bearded Vulture pictures: François Biollaz