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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Tracking of Egyptian vultures, late January 2016

We fitted two young Egyptian vultures with tracking devices in January.  These are solar-powered GPS-GSM devices that record the GPS location of the tag and then sends that information, via SMS, over the mobile phone network.  These differ from the ones we used last year, which recorded the GPS location, then sent the data via the Argos system of satellites.  Below is a picture of one of the birds with its tag.

Egyptian vulture fitted with a solar-powered GPS-GSM tag. (photo: M. McGrady)
Since tagging the birds have been moving in areas frequented by the birds tagged in 2015, to the east and south east of the rubbish dump at Al Multaquaa.

Locations of two Egyptian vultures fitted with GPS-GSM transmitters.  One is currently in the mountains west of Sifa and the other is NW of Tiwi.  The shaded area is the Al Salil Protected Area.
Particular thanks for the January effort goes to people at Be'ah, MECA, ESO and Sita-Suez, Glyn Barrett and Faisal Al Lamki

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Two Egyptian vultures fitted with transmitters in January 2016

As a follow-on to the tracking of two Egyptian vultures in Oman in 2015 (See earlier blog posts), two more Egyptian vultures have been fitted with transmitters (and colour and metal rings) in January 2016.  This is a joint effort by-like minded individuals and organizations that currently has no fixed funding, but is moving forward largely because of the in-kind support of those involved.  The work is being done under licence issued by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Affairs in Oman.

To recap the reason why research on Egyptian vultures in Oman is so important... Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) is a globally endangered species that is declining in most of its range, which extends from Spain to Central Asia in the north to India and much of Africa in the south.  Oman is a stronghold for the species, both as a breeder and as a migrant from areas farther north; Masirah Island hosts the second highest density of breeding Egyptian vultures in the world. A wide range of factors contribute to the decline, including active and inadvertent poisoning, electrocution, shooting, and killing for traditional medicine.

Currently, gaps in our understanding of vulture ecology and changing patterns of climate, food availability, persecution and other factors are undermining our ability to conserve this (and other) vulture species.  For that reason, it is critically important to undertake work to address the knowledge gap. While conserving species is important in that it helps maintain biological diversity, in the case of vultures, conserving them means we are also enabling them to perform important ecological services (disposal of waste) that benefit humans.

In the coming days, I will be posting information on the work, and the birds we are tracking, and then post updates every so often.  I do hope that these birds survive better than the ones marked in 2015.  Both birds we marked last year were young, and so more likely to die because of lack of experience, and as we posted earlier, one of those birds was known to have been electrocuted (See posts in December 2015).

Releasing an Egyptian vulture fitted with a GPS tracking device (Photo: ESO)