Tonto the Bearded Vulture

The family of bearded vultures Tonto, Ariadna and Lachko is a family made up of real celebrities. The video of Papa Tonto’s arrest in Madrid is circulating on world television. The news of the mother’s rescue was reported by the media in Bulgaria and Greece, and their son Lachko unexpectedly became a star at the Rescue Center for Wild Animals in Stara Zagora. In the company of the dog Vihar, who detects poisons and helps volunteers to preserve endangered species in Bulgaria, this colorful company fascinates children and makes them join the mission to protect nature in Bulgaria.”

The book was developed under the project “Natura 2000 in Bulgaria, New Horizons”, which aims to popularize the NATUR 2000 network, the rare species in Bulgaria and the threats that threaten them

A symbol of Bulgarian nature protection, the bearded vulture disappeared as a nesting bird from the territory of the country at the end of the last century. In May 1972, the last dead specimen was found in the Blue Stones near Sliven, after which the species was considered extinct as a breeder from Bulgaria. The species is included in the world red list of endangered animals in the “Potentially Endangered” category (IUCN Red list / Near threatened) and in many other international regulations. In Bulgaria, the species is Extinct, listed in Appendix 2 and 3 of the Law on Biological Diversity. There are four species of vultures in Europe – griffon, black, Egyptian and bearded. All of them are strictly protected by Bulgarian legislation and European directives. They are also one of the species whose protection is declared by the European ecological network Natura 2000.

Bulgaria is home to only three of them – griffon, black and Egyptian vultures. The bearded vulture, a symbol of Bulgarian nature protection, has disappeared from the territory of the country. The bearded vulture inhabits mountainous areas with low forest vegetation, mosaic habitats and steep cliffs where the level of human disturbance is low. The species prefers plains and mountain pastures with stable livestock and game populations, as well as enough predators to leave enough bones after the “meal” to feed on. It is the only bird of prey that feeds on bones and marrow, which make up between 80-90% of the species’ diet. This specialization to a type of food allows it to avoid competition for food with other species of vultures and eagles. It breaks large bones into small pieces that it can eat by flying off with the bone and dropping it on special rock slopes called ossuary. That is why it is called by the people “kostober”.

They start forming pairs and maintaining a nesting territory at 6-8 years of age, this age being the oldest among all birds of prey in the world. The first successful nesting occurs at the age of about 11 years. He usually grows one – only a few.

The greatest threat to the species worldwide remains the use of poisons in the wild, as well as poaching, poison pollution, reduction of the food base, disturbance in mountainous areas. Green Balkans works on a long-term program for the return of the species to nature, which also includes changing the thinking and mood of the public towards the species through informational and educational campaigns throughout the country.

Project “Natura 2000 in Bulgaria – New Horizons” LIFE17 GIE/BG/371 /LIFEforBgNATURA/ aims to completely change the attitude and public awareness regarding the ecological network NATURA 2000 and the species it preserves.

Text: Donika Rizova
Illustrations and design: APASH illustration

Published by: Green Balkans NGO

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