CASTILLE Y LEON – On Wednesday morning, locals came across the scene of vultures lying in a field. According to The Vulture Conservation Foundation (4vultures), based on the circumstances, a mass poisoning incident is the likely cause behind this tragic event. However, investigations are ongoing.
As vultures are scavengers, poison usually meant for foxes and wolves is their main threat. This is because they feed on carcasses of dead animals. Their gastric acid is extremely corrosive, which allows vultures to digest rotting carcasses infested with potentially dangerous bacteria.
Protect the ecosystem
For most people, the instinctive behaviour of vultures can be harrowing. However, because they eat and clean dead animal carcasses, they help prevent the spread of diseases including anthrax and rabies. Therefore, these birds have a vital part to play in protecting the ecosystem.
In this case, environmental agents and Guardia Civil (Seprona) confirmed 56 birds were dead (55 vultures and a black kite). There were also a further 41 vultures (38 Griffon and 3 Cinereous). They managed to catch around 20 of those still alive and take them to recovery centres for treatment. Although they were in a bad state and is unlikely they will survive.
The birds had been eating the remains of four sheep that had died. As such, experts are now investigating the cause of the poisoned sheep. They must determine whether it was intentional to kill the sheep, or perhaps they were poisoned by agricultural chemicals. If the sheep were poisoned in some way, then it is likely the vultures died due to secondary poisoning.
Back in the spring of 2019, Nature Protection Service officers (Seprona) discovered three dead Griffon Vultures near a sheep farm in the province of Cáceres. The farmer had intentionally left some poisoned sheep which caught the attention of the vultures resulting in their death. The farmer received a large fine. However, on further investigation, it was found the problem was much larger than initially thought. The farmer was then sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Vultures die from poison baits
Based on a report by 4vultures in Spain alone, between 1992 and 2017, 21,260 animals died due to poison baits from a total of 9,700 crimes against wildlife.
Spain is home to 90% of European populations of the protected species, with around 35,000 pairs of Griffon and 2,500 pairs of Cinereous vultures.