The surviving Croatian population of griffon vultures will soon be stopping by Učka mountain to feed and nest
A feeding ground for griffon vultures has recently been introduced in Učka Nature Park, aiming to provide the animals with a food source that’s crucial to their development in the first year of life and during the nesting season, reports Glas Istre on December 1, 2018.
Griffon vultures (bjeloglavi sup in Croatian) are considered an endangered species in Croatia and are thus protected by law, with the estimated nesting population counting around 100 breeding pairs. One of the main reasons that led to a significant drop in their numbers was the abandonment of traditional agriculture as a branch of economy; as griffon vultures feed on animal carcasses, a drop in extensive livestock farming resulted in a shortage of food for the scavenging birds.
The surviving population of griffon vultures in Croatia mainly resides on Kvarner, with the sanctuary on Cres island being the most renowned habitat for the protected species. Part of the animals that nest on Cres make up for the shortage of food with daily migration to the feeding grounds in the Italian Alps, passing over Učka mountain along the way.
Director of Učka Nature Park Egon Vasilić stated the main goal of the project is to preserve the remaining population of griffon vultures on the northern Adriatic by providing them with a food source closer to their nesting grounds in order to increase their numbers. “Once upon a time, griffon vultures used to nest on Učka, so we built the feeding ground to create conditions that will enable them to return”, Vasilić said, adding they also see the new structure as an addition to the up-and-coming tourism niche based on bird-watching. The project will thus contribute to the financial self-sustainability of Učka Nature Park.
The feeding ground will be stocked with sheep carcasses throughout the year, primarily in the nesting season, in order to entice the species to nest on the slopes of Učka. Another goal of the project is to develop green and sustainable forms of tourism and to attract visitors interested in the natural and cultural goods of the area.
As griffon vultures nest and reside on inaccessible cliffs at high altitudes, an observatory has also been built on Učka to enable the visitors to observe the birds and take photos from a relatively short distance. It’s also worth noting the vultures are a timid, cautious species, which is why they will need an adjustment period before they settle in their new habitat. Once they’ve got accustomed to their new lodgings on Učka mountain, the observatory will open for visitors.