Rescue mission for the only and last young Egyptian Vulture in Lomovete

11.09.2015

On the 08.09.2015, a joint expedition between BSPB, Nature Park “Rusenski Lom”, Speleology club “Helictit” and the Regional Environmental and Water Inspection “Ruse” was set to save the only and last young Egyptian Vulture in Rusenski Lom. The bird, emblematically named Zhoro Manev, was admitted and hospitalized in the Wildlife Rehabilitation and Breeding Centre - Green Balkans the same day.

But who is Zhoro Manev? In fact it is a long story. Stoyan Nikolov – the project manager of the LIFE+ “The Return of the Neophron” is about to tell you:

“Only 30 years ago, Nature Park Lomovete was famous for representing one of best places for the Egyptian Vulture in Bulgaria, with over 10 nesting pairs at the time. In 2011 when the LIFE+ project “The Return of the Neophron” started, only two pairs remained on the territory of Lomovete. In 2012, thanks to the conjoined efforts of the project’s team, the park’s administration and local collaborators, both pairs were provided with additional food and protection and bred successfully. Unfortunately, one of the male birds disappeared during the incubation period. The female was fed frequently, but during one of her absences from the nest, the eggs were destroyed by corvine birds and the nest was abandoned (throughout the course of the incubation the parents take turns over the eggs and feed separately; otherwise the male brings food to the nest). In 2013 only one pair returned to Lomovete, but it would soon suffer the same fate: the male left during the incubation period and the female abandoned the nest. The reoccurrence of these unfortunate events prompted a more thorough research, which suggests pesticide poisoning (see the full report HERE). We have no concrete proof, but in both cases the male bird has most likely died as males are particularly attached to their nest and territory and wouldn’t leave while the female is incubating.

In 2014 a single female bird circled the Nature Park, but couldn’t find a male to nest with. This year (2015), when all signs were pointing that we had lost the Egyptian Vulture from Lomovete, we didn’t lose hope. Together with the administration of Nature Park “Rusenski Lom” and local collaborators we started bringing large quantities of meat to two of the three available feeding sites in the park. The results arrived without delay. The female from last year returned and also a young male arrived, ringed in the same region in 2010. They bred successfully, though a bit later than usual. This was only possible with the care of Krasimir Manev (a writer from Ruse with a deep love for nature, who observed, guarded and fed “his friends” as he calls them) and Georgi Georgiev from the administration of Nature Park “Lomovete” (who coordinated the local activity and provided the “vulture restaurants” with healthy and diverse menu). Everything was going well, until the young bird had to fledge and embark on its first migration to Africa. The parents urged their fledgling to make its first flight, but sadly the bird was too young for that. In the end the migratory instinct of the parents turned out to be stronger and in the end of August they left their summer home and abandoned the young. We waited for a week, for the parents to return and continue feeding the fledgling, but alas they didn’t come. Without food or water, the young was surely going to die.

And so, on 08.09.2015 we set off to rescue the only and last young Egyptian Vulture from Rusenski Lom. We departed from Sofia before dawn and arrived at Lomovete around noon. Waiting for us there were representatives from the Administration of NP Rusenski Lom, the Regional Environmental and Water Inspection Ruse, the correspondent from the Bulgarian National Radio Asya Vasileva and of course our local collaborator Krasi Manev, who knew the nest site like the back of his hand. We moved quickly to the nest with the help of the park’s off-road veteran Lada “Niva” and Speleologists from the “Helictit” club. Kostadin Stoichkov and Georgi Kolev made their descent to the nest and picked up the young vulture. The bird appeared healthy but it was very thin (barely 1.3 kg; the young vultures at that age normally weigh around 1.7-1.9 kg). At first it tried defending itself with its beak, but after we gave it some water it realized we are not “so bad” and started begging for food. We gave the bird the emblematic name “Zhoro Manev” for the three people who cared for it right from the hatch ( Krasimir Manev and Georgi Georgiev ) and who pulled it out of the nest ( Georgi Kolev ).

Without further ado, we headed to the Wildlife Rehabilitation and Breeding Centre - Green Balkans in Stara Zagora, where the bird would find medical care. During the ride, the fledgling didn’t stop begging for food and we couldn’t resist feeding him. We noticed a roadkill fox on the side of the road and offered Zhoro some of the viscera, which he voraciously swallowed. He demanded more, but we resisted and thank God for that as Zhoro Manev wasn’t accustomed to riding and after half an hour, in a turn heavy part of the road, he vomited copiously. Neither the sight nor the smell were pleasant, but we tried our best to ignore them until we arrive at Stara Zagora.

In the Rescue Centre, the vulture was fully examined, hydrated, and treated against parasites. Zhoro appeared very lively considering the long day he had – he was standing on his feet, managing his plumage (other birds in the similar circumstances would lie down, at times with a slumped head). Zhoro Manev will remain in the Centre until his full recovery. We cannot release him into the wild yet as he has missed the migration period and without the lessons of his parents we would be leaving him to his doom. He will be involved in future breeding programs in the Centre.

This is the story of Zhoro Manev, or barely the beginning of it – the story of the only and last Egyptian Vulture from Lomovete in 2015. Are there going to be more in the future? We cannot say, but we know that there will be vultures, as long as there are people longing to see them… “

The guarding of the rescued Egyptian vulture was realized thanks to the donation of Marieta Koleva. As a reward for her generosity she received the right to name the young bird, but she immediately agreed with the proposal of the BSPB to give the Egyptian vulture the name of its rescuers.

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The breeding performance of the Egyptian Vulture population in Bulgaria is among the highest in Europe

The breeding performance of the Egyptian Vulture population in Bulgaria is among the highest in Europe