One aspect of VulPro’s conservation work is a conservation breeding programme, which continues to grow in success and experience each year. The 2017 breeding programme success rate increased by 30% compared to last year; producing 10 fledglings out of 16 breeding pairs, compared to 2016’s 5 fledglings out of 15 breeding pairs. The 2017 offspring will remain at VulPro for another 8 months inside the rehabilitation enclosure before being transported to their release site at the Nooitgedacht Cape Vulture Breeding Colony in the Gauteng Province, South Africa.

The 8th November 2017 was an amazing day for both VulPro and vulture conservation; 35 conservation bred and rehabilitated vultures were released from their Nooitgedacht release enclosure. This is the largest release of its kind on a global scale; a first for Africa and for the species. All of the vultures have been fitted with wing tags and tracking devices to monitor them post-release.

Prior to release, the birds were kept in a large enclosure on top of Magaliesberg Ridge, the highest point of Magaliesberg Mountains, for six months to acclimatise them to the conditions. By acclimatising them to the area, it is hoped that these birds will join the wild Cape vulture breeding colony nearby. This colony became extinct in the late 1960s, but in 1991 the first Cape vulture pair bred here again. There are now 150 breeding pairs in the colony.

The release group included 32 Cape vultures, two white-backed vultures and one lappet-faced vulture. Both captive bred and rehabilitated birds are still around the breeding colony. Some have left, even as far as the Botswana border and returned to the colony.

Data from the release will determine the way forward for VulPro’s conservation breeding programme and future releases and thus, data will need to be analysed before further release plans are made.

See the fantastic moment of the release here:

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