Egyptian vulture species protection program

Working hard for the Egyptian vulture

Zoo support since2017
Conservation status on the Red ListEndangered
Location of conservation projectBulgaria

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The Egyptian vulture is a scavenger and is one of the smallest vulture species of Europe. The distribution range of the migratory bird extends from Southern Europe through Africa to Asia. European Egyptian vultures spend the winter months in Africa, where they are known to even crack ostrich eggs with the help of stones. In regions, where the Egyptian vulture still exists, it hardly avoids humans and can frequently be seen in the proximity of settlements. Therefore it is rather susceptible to ingesting illegal poison baits.

However, juveniles die mostly during their first year of life and therefore during their first migration flights, whereas drowning in the Mediterranean and electrocution are particularly likely causes. At least the number of young birds, which drown could be considerably reduced by reintroduction during the spring of the second or third year of life (delayed release method). If young birds are released into the wild at a later date, they have more time to gain experience in finding feeding habitats and resting places, to train their flight endurance and to socialize with other Egyptian vultures before the autumn migration.


If no measures are taken, the probability of his extermination until 2049 lies at 48%. If, however until then 12 Egyptian vultures per year are released into the wild, the probability of extinction decreases to less than 1%.

As part of a recently completed EU-funded LIFE project, three different reintroduction methods were tested: rearing by human foster mothers (foster method), rearing in an artificial aerie before leaving the nest (hacking method) and release in the spring of the second or third year of life (delayed release method). In the trials, the delayed release method turned out to be the most promising method.

All reintroduced individuals were equipped with GPS trackers. The results of the LIFE project were incorporated into the "Strategy for the reintroduction of Egyptian vultures in Bulgaria and Greece". In 2023, 4 successful breeding pairs in Bulgaria consisted of at least one partner who had been reintroduced during the program.


The aim of the project is to support the small population of Egyptian vultures in the Balkans. This is achieved on one hand by reducing the known hazards along the migration route and in the breeding areas and, on the other hand, by continuously increasing the breeding population.

This is how Tiergarten Schönbrunn is supporting the project:

• Participation in the conservation breeding program
• Providing young birds for reintroduction

This is what our partners have to say:

Volen Arkumarev, Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds: “Breeding this species in captivity is difficult and very challenging and special care is needed for the captive-bred chicks to prepare them to live in the wild. Zoo Schönbrunn has very motivated staff and good experience in this field, and we are extremely happy that they manage to raise Egyptian Vulture chicks almost every year and provide them to our recovery program. This underlines the importance of zoos in breeding endangered species and supporting species recovery programs.”