Oxford 6 March 2007. New evidence gathered by Earthwatch researchers finds that some threatened cinereous vultures migrate up to 1200 miles south in the winter.
A young vulture, tagged by scientists in Mongolia's Ikh Nart Nature Reserve in 2005, was recently identified near Pusan, South Korea. Another tagged vulture was subsequently sighted in Heibei Province, China and three more vultures were spotted in other parts of Korea. Scientists have long suspected that some Mongolian born birds' winter in Korea and China, but this is the first piece of evidence that supports this theory.
Cinereous vultures have been steadily declining throughout Europe and Asia for decades due to poisoning and habitat loss. An estimated 75 per cent of the world's population is now found in Mongolia but their protection has been hampered by a lack of knowledge about their ecology.
Earthwatch scientist Dr. Rich Reading from Denver Zoo says, "This new information confirms our suspicions that some vultures travel far from their birth site, it also gives us a greater insight into their behaviour. We are now in a better position to assess their conservation requirements."
Dr. Reading has been working alongside scientists from the Mongolian Academy of Sciences and volunteers from Earthwatch since 2003. They have been placing leg bands on young vultures just before they fledge, and in 2005 began attaching large wing tags that were originally developed for California condors. The research project hopes to better understand the factors influencing nesting success in order to further the recovery of the species.
Cinereous vultures, also called Eurasian black vultures, are the largest raptors in Eurasia, and boast an impressive 8 to 9 foot wing span. Current estimates put the global population at about 4-6,000 individuals. The birds breed in mountainous areas from Spain to Mongolia and south to the Himalayas. They have been spotted on Mount Everest at altitudes of up to 23,000 feet.
For press information, images and interviews, please contact Zoe Gamble, Earthwatch PR Manager, + 44 (0)1865 318852 / 07725 690469 / firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos © Dr. Rich Reading