GPS-tagged Egyptian vulture found dead in Oman

Oman Tuesday 08/March/2016 22:02 PM
By: Times News Service
GPS-tagged Egyptian vulture found dead in Oman

Muscat: Environment Society of Oman (ESO) successfully fitted two juvenile Egyptian vultures with solar powered GPS (global positioning system) radio tags in January as part of research to better understand the ecology of this endangered species.
Launched as part of the Society’s Egyptian Vulture Research and Conservation project, the tracking of these birds was to help identify the birds’ habitats, congregations, main threats, and boost conservation efforts. On February 16, the transmitter indicated that one of the birds had stopped moving.
A team from ESO visited the GPS location of the bird in Al Amerat and found a lifeless bird. There were no obvious clues as to the likely cause of death. Juvenile mortality rate in this species and other birds is naturally high (70 to 90 per cent).
Although it may have died of natural causes, electrocution, poisoning or shooting are not excluded. Although gaps exist, through satellite tracking, more information is being gathered on when and where these vultures move and on the causes of mortality. The second bird is still moving around northern Oman, and was most recently seen in the area of Tahwa, in the Al Sharqiyah Governorate. The bird’s movements and updates about the project can be found at:
Nicknamed the “Pharaoh’s Chicken,” Egyptian vultures are found across south-western Europe, northern and central Africa, Arabia, India, eastern Europe and central Asia. As a direct result of accidental and planned poisoning, electrocution on medium voltage power lines, persecution, poaching and habitat destruction, the Egyptian vulture has become globally endangered.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Egyptian vulture has declined in virtually all parts of its range; experiencing a 90 per cent decline in India during the last decade; its population has halved in Europe over the last three generations; alongside significant declines reported in the African and Arabian populations.
However, ESO research has shown that Oman may be a stronghold, and as such has the potential to help contribute to global conservation efforts.
Maia S. Willson, ESO Research and Conservation manager, said: “Tracking the animal’s movement is helping us understand their habitat use and the threats to which they are exposed, whether natural or human-induced. Through satellite tracking, we were able to determine the precise location of the bird, and determine more accurately the reasons they might die. It is crucial for the tagging programme to continue, as only long-term information will enable us better understand their movements and ecology.”
Dr. Michael McGrady, principal investigator for the project, added: “Egyptian vultures are scavengers that provide an important ecosystem service by consuming biological waste created by humans, which provides benefits to human health and the health of domestic livestock. We want to better understand the movements of vultures in Oman and the real and potential impact of waste management and power distribution networks on vultures. Comprehensive plans for waste management and power distribution could both benefit from vulture conservation.”
ESO began researching Egyptian vultures in early 2012, when the Society began surveying populations on the Masirah Island. It has tagged four juvenile Egyptian Vultures since 2015 in collaboration with the International Avian Research, revealing valuable information about Egyptian vultures in Oman.
The Society was founded in March 2004 by Omanis representing different regions and many different professional backgrounds and is the first of its kind in Oman that works by promoting conservation and environmental awareness among all sections of society.