Greece takes action on three iconic bird species
Roula Trigou from HOS (BirdLife Greece) tells us why the future looks brighter for 3 charismatic bird species in Greece: the Egyptian vulture, the Lesser White-fronted Goose and the Lesser Kestrel.
In a landmark first for Greece, three Species Action Plans (SAPs) to protect three iconic bird species have been adopted by the government in Athens. The long-awaited National Action Plans for the Egyptian Vulture and the Lesser White-fronted Goose – as well as the Regional Action Plan for the Lesser Kestrel in Thessaly, central Greece – describe very clearly the necessary actions that must be taken in Greece in order to safeguard these iconic species over the next five years. All three species are listed in the Red Data Book of Endangered Species of Greece and are strictly protected by national and European legislation, as well as by international conventions.
This is a double-win for vultures with this development coinciding with the recent adoption of the Multi-species Action Plan to Conserve African-Eurasian Vultures at the 12th Meeting of the Convention on Migratory Species COP 12 in Manila.
The Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS/BirdLife Greece) delivered this great result – with the help of other partners from respective LIFE+ projects – after many years of effort and close collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Energy.
The National Law for Biodiversity, in Greece, views the adoption of such Species Action Plans as necessary for the effective protection of endangered species. Greece’s contribution to international conservation efforts to protect these migratory birds is especially significant due to the country’s importance in the species’ annual life cycle.
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus
The Egyptian Vulture is the most endangered vulture in Europe. Within the last 30 years, its Greek population has plummeted by 95%, largely due to the illegal use of poison baits. It now stands on the precipice of national extinction, with only five pairs left, having already disappeared completely from many other Balkan countries. This is particularly alarming as practically the entire Balkan population of Egyptian vultures migrates through Greece.
In 2016 HOS, together with three project partners (BSPB-BirdLife Bulgaria, WWF Greece and RSPB-BirdLife UK) completed the EU-funded LIFE+ Project “The Return of the Neophron” (see Layman’s Report). The newly-adopted National Action Plan was drafted by HOS in collaboration with WWF Greece.
Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus
The Lesser White-fronted Goose is classified as Critically Endangered in Europe and it is the most endangered waterbird in Europe. The species’ Fennoscandian (the Nordic region comprising the Scandinavian Peninsula, Finland, Karelia, and the Kola Peninsula) population winters in the wetlands of Northern Greece and currently counts as few as 30 pairs. HOS has been working for its conservation for the past 20 years. HOS was the coordinating partner of the recently completed LIFE+ Project for the Lesser White-fronted Goose. The newly-adopted National Action Plan was drafted by HOS in collaboration with the Forest Research Institute of the Hellenic Agricultural Organization "Demeter".
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni
The Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni is a small migratory falcon that breeds in colonies in the southern Europe and winters in sub-Saharan Africa. The Thessaly Plain in central Greece hosts the largest breeding colony in Eastern Europe with over 5,000 pairs. The Lesser Kestrel nests in the buildings of the villages spread along the Plain and feeds on insects (mainly grasshoppers) on the neighbouring fields. The rapid changes in the rural landscape, mainly due to the intensification of agriculture and the use of insecticides and fertilizers, have resulted in a sharp decline in the population over the past 30 years. HOS participated in a 5-year project “LIFE for the Lesser Kestrel” coordinated by the University of Thessaly (see www.lifelesserkestrel.eu).
Everyone at HOS is delighted and very proud to see the fruits of many years of hard work come together with these Species Action Plans. The news is particularly important as this is the first time that Greece has adopted Action Plans for the protection of endangered species. Although such plans have been drafted in the past, none have been endorsed until now due to the lack of a concrete legal framework. HOS is now eager to see their implementation in the hope of securing brighter future for these three iconic species.
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