Endangered Egyptian vulture visits Malta: BirdLife on all night watch

An endangered bird from a Conservation Reintroduction Programme in Italy has arrived in Malta.  The rare Egyptian vulture, nick-named Tobia, spent last night on the island being guarded by BirdLife Malta and the Police.

Tobia was born on 17 June this year in captivity, before being released into the wild in Calabria, Italy, earlier this month. He is satellite tagged, meaning that the programme can track his every move. He left Calabria on 18 September, and arrived on Malta yesterday afternoon. BirdLife Malta birdwatchers spotted the bird yesterday afternoon and spent all night guarding it alongside the police.

Nicholas Barbara, BirdLife Malta Conservation Manager, said “Egyptian Vultures are incredible birds, and very rare visitors to Malta. It is fantastic to see them here; however it is a sad reflection of the situation on our islands that when birds like this arrive they have to be guarded by the police. Rare birds are prized by some hunters, Tobia managed to leave safely but just a few days ago 2 spoonbills were not so lucky”.

Guido Ceccolini, from CERM (Centre for Endangered Raptors), who oversees the Italian reintroduction project, told BirdLife Malta this morning “In Italy, we were quite worried about Tobia reaching Malta. We are very grateful that the BirdLife Malta team stayed with him overnight, ensuring that he survived to be able to continue his migration. Illegal hunting both in the south of Italy and in Malta is of great concern to us, given the conservation efforts invested here.”

Guido also told BirdLife Malta that Tobia’s story already has an element of luck. He is the son of a bird called Patricia who hatched from an egg which had been stolen from a nest in Turkey and smuggled into Italy where it was seized by the Italian authorities. Luckily the egg was not damaged and Patricia hatched in 2005, she is now 10 years old and this is the first year that she has laid eggs.

Tobia is from a conservation programme that is a collaboration between the Italian Ministry for the Environment, CERM, EEP (European Endangered Species Programme) and the Vulture Conservation Foundation.

Egyptian Vultures are large birds of prey, with a wingspan of over 150cm. These rare birds are endangered in Europe, and the Italian conservation programme aims to increase their numbers by breeding vultures in captivity and releasing them into the wild. Tobia was one of 6 birds released this year, all of whom are satellite tracked and their location checked every half hour. One of them, Sara, has already reached Africa.

BirdLife Malta is inviting the public to come and watch migrating birds and learn more about their amazing migration journeys at their upcoming ‘Migration Fest’ events. The next events are on Sunday 27 September, 4pm at Laferla Cross and Sunday 4 October at Għadira Nature Reserve. For more information, contact [email protected]

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