02 February 2014 17:04

The Gypas project strengthening Cyprus’ Griffon Vulture population with birds from Crete officially ended with great success yesterday.
Part for the ‘Greece-Cyprus 2007-2013’ cross-border cooperation programme Gypas took place between September 2011 and January 2014. At the start of the effort only 12 Griffon Vultures remained in Cyprus of which only one to two couples were in a position to reproduce.
The project has strengthened the local population by 25 birds.
In Crete, the project also focused on rehabilitating poisoned or otherwise unwell vultures before their release back into their natural environment.
In Cyprus, suitable facilities were created at two locations to house the vultures imported from Crete as they acclimatised and were prepared for their release into the local countryside.
They are kept in purpose-made cages in Ayios Ioannis near Paphos and Limnatis in the Limassol district until they are acclimatised to Cyprus and the authorities are confident the vultures will not fly back to Crete when released.
“Vulture restaurants” are also being created in fenced- off areas around the cages providing the vultures with a protected source of quality food once they are released.
Efforts were also made to inform the public about the importance of the vultures’ presence since the main reason for their demise in Cyprus has been due to human activity.
As well as being a natural asset to Cyprus, vultures help clean the countryside of animal corpses. The large birds are also an attraction for bird watchers and eco-tourism enthusiasts.
With a 2.5m wingspan, Griffon Vultures (Gyps Fulvus) are the largest birds to naturally occur in Cyprus. The light brown birds have black-tipped wings and tail feathers and fluffy white feathers around their heads and neck.
Also strengthening the local population is Sol, a young Griffon Vulture born in Limassol Zoo.
Sol began a new phase of his life in January by joining others of his species at one of the Gypas project’s specially-created holding areas in preparation of being released in the wild in a few months. Limassol Zoo runs a breeding programme for the Griffon Vulture in conjunction with the Forestry Department.


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