An Alpine range in Germany has become home to two female bearded vultures for the first time since they were eradicated 140 years ago.
The Berchtesgaden National Park located on the south of Germany and near the border with Austria has welcomed two bearded vultures after they were born in Spain and then sent to Germany.
The bearded vultures named Wally and Bavaria are around 100 days old and were born in the Andalusian breeding station in Spain which is run by the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) as a part of the EAZA Ex-situ Programme (EEP) formerly known as the European Endangered Species Programme.
According to the State Association for Bird Protection in Bavaria (LBV) that supported the project, the two birds are supposed to strengthen the Central European population of the species and close an important geographical gap within the next 10 years.
LBV chairman Dr Norbert Schaffer said: “This is a historic moment for species protection in Germany and a real milestone. The largest bird in the Alps returned to Bavaria today.”
Dr Ronald Baier from the Berchtesgaden National Park added: “We are very pleased that we were able to set the foundation for the return of this fascinating bird species to Germany today.”
In addition, the Bavarian Environmental Minister Thorsten Glauber said that the ministry will support the project by investing around EUR 610,000 (GBP 523,797) over the next three years.
Glauber added: “I wish the two bearded vultures Wally and Bavaria a long life. They will make an important contribution to strengthening the species population in the Alps.”
Because they are still not able to fly the two female vultures had to be carried up in the mountain by a small team made of national park employees who previously placed the birds in specially designed boxes.
Project Manager Ulrich Brendel said: “After the successful climb we placed Bavaria and Wally in nests made of spruce twigs and sheep’s wool which we prepared in advance. Then we attached GPS transmitters to them and they were examined again. Then we withdrew to allow the two vultures to get used to their new home.”
Bavaria and Wally’s nests are placed on an almost three-metre large rock which is located 1,300 metres above sea level and was selected by national park experts.
The birds which will continue to live without human contact will be monitored by scientists in the natural park’s observation site through a live stream enabled by IR cameras.
LBV Project Manager Toni Wegscheider said: “This will allow us to recognise irregularities immediately so that we can offer the birds optimal protection.”
Brendel who said that the two birds will be fed regularly added: “The vultures will be given fresh food while they are asleep so that they do not associate it with anyone.”
The national park reported that interested enthusiasts can follow Bavaria and Wally’s development on their website.