A passion for Bearded Vultures

Dr Alex Llopis Dell, originally from Schaffhausen in Switzerland, has dedicated his career to conserving Europe’s rarest vulture — the Bearded Vulture, playing a key role in the comeback of the species in the Alps and in other European regions. All European vulture species have a highly vulnerable status, and their distribution ranges have been severely reduced in the last century. Threats such as illegal poisoning, lack of food availability and collisions with wind farms and powerlines are putting the incipient recovery of some populations at risk.

Alex’s involvement with the conservation of the Bearded Vulture started when he was studying to become a veterinarian at Vienna University. During his studies, he collaborated with the Bearded Vulture Reintroduction Project in the Alps for the release programme, first in Austria and then in Switzerland. At the same time, he volunteered at the Richard Faust Bearded Vulture Specialised Captive Breeding Centre in Austria.

In 1996, Alex started coordinating the Bearded Vulture EEP at national level in Spain. It is also at this time that he took on the role of technician in charge of the Bearded Vulture Captive Breeding Centre of Guadalentín in Spain. The centre was created by the Regional Government of Andalusia (Junta de Andalucía) to establish a captive-stock and release the birds in Andalusia, aiming to reintroduce the species in the region. Guadalentín is the centre that currently breeds the most chicks in captivity every year.

Human-imprinted Bearded Vulture male Kajazo and Alex (c) Vulture Conservation Foundation

Ten years later, in 2006, Alex was appointed technical lead at the Bearded Vulture Captive Breeding Unit within the Rehabilitation Centre de Fauna Vallcalent owned by the Government of Catalonia (Generalitat de Catalunya) in Spain. This Unit shelters pairs from the Bearded Vulture EEP which have problems reproducing, and thanks to Alex’s expertise and experience, the birds may see their chances of breeding successfully increase.

Finally, in 2017, Alex was officially nominated coordinator of the Bearded Vulture EEP. In this role, he is responsible for working together with over 40 zoos, specialised breeding centres, recovery centres, and private centres that house Bearded Vultures to ensure the best breeding results from the network’s 179 birds. Every year, the VCF and partners release around 20+ young captive-bred Bearded Vultures across different European regions to reintroduce and restock the population of the species in the wild.

Thanks to the diligent and dedicated work of Alex and other stakeholders, Bearded Vultures have a brighter future ahead in Europe! Find out more about how Alex and the VCF are contributing to our action plan on reducing the mortality of migratory birds in the Mediterranean.

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