LC
Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus



Justification

Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (extent of occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite local declines, the global population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over 10 years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in 10 years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
The European population is estimated at 34,800-44,700 pairs, which equates to 69,600-89,400 mature individuals (BirdLife International in prep.). Approximately 10% of the global range for this species falls within Europe, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 696,000-894,000 mature individuals. However, Botha et al. (2017) estimate the population to be much smaller than this, at 80,000-120,000 individuals. It is placed in the band 80,000-900,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population is increasing in its European range (BirdLife International in prep.) and re-introductions have taken place in France, Italy and the Balkans. The central Asian population is suspected to be stable. Populations in North Africa and Turkey are suspected to be in decline owing to persecution, shooting, poisoning and loss of suitable food owing to changing farming practices. There has also been a significant decline recorded in northern Israel, predominantly due to poisoning (Choresh et al. 2019). However, the overall population trend is suspected to be increasing, largely thanks to conservation efforts in Europe.

Ecology

Behaviour Some birds are migratory, overwintering in Africa, although many others are resident or nomadic (del Hoyo et al. 1994). It relies heavily on soaring flight, and has been shown to fly at altitudes of 10,000 m and higher. Birds hunt alone but congregate at food sources and roosts; they also tend to migrate singly, but concentrations (usually up to 15 individuals) form at sea crossings and strong thermals (del Hoyo et al. 1994; Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Habitat It is a species of expansive open areas in a wide array of environments, from mountains to semi-desert, and is recorded regularly from sea level up to c.3,000 m (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Diet It feeds almost exclusively on carrion, mainly that of large mammals (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Breeding site The nest is usually built on a rocky outcrop, with sheltered ledges or small caves preferred (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Management information Effective protection in areas with a plentiful supply of food (which often includes the carrion of domestic animals), has been shown to catalyse impressive population recoveries, and reintroduction has been successful in parts of its range (del Hoyo et al. 1994).

Threats

It declined markedly throughout the 19th–20th centuries in much of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, mainly due to direct persecution and "bycatch" from the poisoned carcasses set for livestock predators (Snow and Perrins 1998, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001, Orta et al. 2015). Direct persecution has decreased, although it may still be a threat in eastern Europe, Central Asia and possibly the Middle East (Botha et al. 2017). Unintentional poisoning through poison bates remains the most significant threat to the species (Botha et al. 2017) - during 2000-2010 2,146 Griffon Vultures were found poisoned in Spain (RSPB 2014). In some areas a reduction in available food supplies, arising from changes in livestock management practices, also had an impact (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001, Orta et al. 2015). It is very highly vulnerable to the effects of potential wind energy development (Strix 2012) and electrocution has been identified as a threat (Global Raptors Information Network 2015). Disturbance caused by visitors may also pose a threat in some areas (Choresh et al. 2019). Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used for veterinary purposes pose a threat to this species. One case of suspected poisoning caused by flunixin, an NSAID, was recorded in this species in 2012 in Spain (Zorrilla et al. 2015), and several more have occurred since (Herrero-Villar et al. 2020). Diclofenac, a similar NSAID which has caused severe declines in Gyps vulture species across Asia, was authorised for veterinary use in Spain in 2013. Diclofenac was detected in livestock carcasses in the Iberian Peninsula between 2013 and 2019 (Herrero-Villar et al. 2020), and in 2021 the first case of a vulture death in Europe due to ingestion of Diclofenac was confirmed (Herrero-Villar et al. 2021). 

There were widespread declines in the population of Griffon vultures throughout Portugal and the Iberian Peninsula during the 20th century (Carneiro et al. 2015). This is a result of the species ingesting toxins from the carcasses they feed on, which accumulate in their system and increase mortality rates. Most of the carcasses the species feeds on are high in toxins as they came through livestock management or hunting practises; lead bullet fragments are often ingested leading to a build-up of toxic levels of lead within the species. This was worsened in 2001 when the EU legislated against the disposal of livestock carcasses in the field to curb the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease. This lowered food availability and forced some vultures to seek out food in areas including garbage dumps, where they risk ingesting further heavy metals. In an analysis of 121 wild vultures sampled on the Iberian Peninsula, every individual had lead present in its blood, ranging in concentration from 4.97 to 300.23 ?g/dl. The declines are further worsened by the intentional, and illegal, poisoning of Griffon vultures, the largest cause of non-natural mortality in large birds of prey (Carneiro et al. 2015).

Conservation actions

Conservation actions underway
CITES Appendix II, CMS Appendix II, Raptors MOU Category 3, EU Birds Directive Annex I. Breeding schemes are in place in at least 8 European countries (Derlink et al. 2018). A Multi-species Action Plan to Conserve African-Eurasian Vultures was produced in 2017 (Botha et al. 2017). The species has been reintroduced to several countries in Europe, including France, Italy and the Balkans. Supplementary feeding also take place in several countries, and has successfully increased the breeding population in Serbia (Marinkovic et al. 2021). Several projects are underway to battle the threat of illegal poisoning, such as the BalkanDetox LIFE project (https://balkandetoxlife.eu/). 

Conservation Actions Proposed
Research the extent of poisoning by NSAIDs in Europe. Ensure enforcement of regulations imposed to avoid diclofenac intoxication in vultures. If necessary, implement a ban on veterinary use of diclofenac in Europe and promote vulture-safe alternatives. Continue monitoring population trends. Investigate the effect of human disturbance on colony size (Choresh et al. 2019). Identify threats outside of breeding areas. Continue to raise awareness and build capacity to fight illegal poisoning. Enforce legal consequences of illegal poisoning. For a comprehensive list of proposed conservation actions, see Botha et al. (2017).

Acknowledgements

Text account compilers
Haskell, L.

Contributors
Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Everest, J., Harding, M., Khwaja, N. & Wheatley, H.


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Gyps fulvus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 10/08/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 10/08/2022.