Status of Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) in Morocco

The Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus – Gypaète barbu) is extremely rare and considered Critically Endangered in Morocco due mainly to the very small population size, restricted range and the ongoing threats from poisoning and disturbance from different sources (Thévenot et al. 2003, Cuzin et al. 2009 - see the ABSTRACT of this just below the picture 2).

- In the 1990s, there were only 20 records: 15 in the High Atlas and 5 in the Anti-Atlas (Thévenot et al. 2003).

- In the 21st century, first records were obtained by Godino et al. (2003, 2004, 2006): at least 5 Bearded Vultures consisting of 2 adults and 3 juvenile/immature birds in the Western High Atlas, and 5 birds in the Central High Atlas (4 adults and 1 juvenile). 

- A juvenile observed by Cherkaoui et al. (2006) south of Jbel Ayachi in the Eastern High Atlas in December 2005.

- In spring 2007, a group of ornithologists from Andalusia and the Canary Islands localised an occupied nest of Lammergeier in Central High Atlas (photo 2).

- The Lammergeier was seen 10 times between 2007 and 2009 in the highest altitude (3000-4167 m.a.s.l.) of Toubkal National Park in the High Atlas (Cuzin 2010).

- In April 2009, an adult carrying wool was photographed with another bird at Oukaïmeden by Todor Todorov and Rachid El Khamlichi (photo 1 + other photos in Todor's blog and a video by Rachid here).

- A sub-adult seen near Oukaimeden on 7 December 2009 by Brian Stone (photo 4, video here).

The observations at Oukaïmeden become more or less regular recently probably because of the installation (?) of a pair of Lammergeyer nearby and probably also because of the frequentation of this location by visitors.

- In November 2011, after ten days of exploration of the High Atlas Mountains, Sierra-trek and Iberus Medioambiente were able to locate a 4-year old immature in pursuit of a Golden Eagle in an attempt to rob it of its prey.


Update 1: In October 2013, a first-year juvenile photographed in the Hight Atlas mountains, this is the fist-ever photograph of a juvenile in Morocco which shows that the adults are breeding and raising juveniles (see the picture at the end).

Update 2: A third calendar immature Bearded Vulture was photographed by Ali Irizi near Jbel Toubkal (Western High Atlas mountains), on 7 March 2015 (best photos for the species in Morocco so far!). 


Update 3: A workshop to develop an "Action Plan for the Conservation of the Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) in Morocco" was organised by the direction of the Toubkal National Park (HCEFLCD) at Imlil (in the Atlas Mountains) on 21-22 October 2015, with the participation of researchers from the Scientific Institute of Rabat (Mohammed V University) and GREPOM (BirdLife Morocco).


Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus) transporting wool
Lammergeier (Gypaetus barbatus) transporting wool, probably to build a nest, or just learning!, Oukaïmeden, 20 April 2009 (photo: Todor Todorov).
Juvenile Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) at the nest, Central High Atlas, Morocco
Juvenile Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) at the nest, Central High Atlas, June 2007 (photo: Alfonso Godino)


Fabrice Cuzin et al. summarised the current knowledge (until 2009) about the Lammergeier in Morocco during the “2nd International Congress on the Bearded Vulture: new challenges for its conservation” organised at Jaen (Spain) in September 2009. The presentation entitled "Bearded Vulture in Morocco. Past, present, future?". 

Citation:

Cuzin, F., Thévenot, M. & Mokhtari, S. (2009). Bearded vulture in Morocco: past, present, future? Presented at 'II International Congress on the Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) in Europe: new challenges for its conservation', 15th to 19th September 2009, Jaen (Spain).

Abstract:

"455 data concerning Bearded Vulture in Morocco were compiled in a database. These data originated both from the bibliography and observations, partly produced by a network of observers, collected between 1905 and 2009. They show an important regression of this species, which disappeared progressively from the majority of Moroccan mountains (Rif, Middle Atlas, Central Plateau, Saharan Atlas, Anti Atlas and a large part of High Atlas). It is currently surviving only in Western and Central High Atlas, in two disjunctive areas. Bearded vulture's population is estimated between 4 and 10 reproductive units. Despite legal protection, the species is considered Critically Endangered in the country, due to the small size of the population, currently decreasing as well as the ongoing threats it's facing. The main threats range from poisoning meant to kill dogs and jackals, illegal shooting, general disturbance by shepherds and local one caused by rock climbers, lack of awareness, new overhead cables (mainly electric power lines) and., in the near future, local habitat loss and deterioration, due to the planned extension of Oukaimeden skiresort. There is no threat concerning the lack of food, as cattle raising is still an important activity. Older shepherds tend to know well the behaviour of this species, however younger ones often think it is a small cattle’s predator, like the Golden Eagle. The behaviour of the species is better known in Central High Atlas than in Western High Atlas. Beside data collection, various local actions of protection were already realized through Spanish Cooperation, GEF Project, Fundacion Gypaetus, Fundacion Global Nature: sensitization of mountain communities, that proved to be more effective among people living from tourism, trying to set a supplementary feeding station, realization of a leaflet and a billboard. Funding of a supplementary feeding station in Toubkal National Park coupled with sensitization activities are already granted y GTZ. Further actions that should be realized include an increasing effort in detecting and monitoring population in the whole High Atlas, sensitization of local communities and guides, training of the most involved individuals, setting a few supplementary feeding stations, and reducing threats. The elaboration of a management plan and the coordination of the different actors." 

Information panel for awareness raising produced by the 'High Commission for Water, Forestry and Desertification Control' (HCEFLCD) and its partners. Toubkal National Park, High Atlas. (photo: Brahim Bakass)


References:

  • Cherkaoui, I., Essabani, A. & Rguibi Idrissi, H. 2006. Observation d’un Gypaète barbu juvénile Gypaetus barbatus dans le massif du Jbel Ayachi (Haut-Atlas Oriental, Maroc). Go-South Bull. 3: 4–5.
  • Cuzin, F. 2010. L’avifaune de très haute altitude du Parc National du Toubkal (Haut Atlas, Maroc). Bulletin de l’Institut Scientifique, Rabat, section Sciences de la Vie 32: 25-32.
  • Cuzin, F., Thévenot, M. & Mokhtari, S. 2009. Bearded Vulture in Morocco. Past, present, future? In: Abstracts of the II International Congress on the Bearded Vulture: new challenges for its conservation. Jaen, Andalusia (Spain), 15th to 19th September 2009.
  • Godino, A., Paz, J.L. & Simón, M.Á. 2003. Naturalistas españoles localizan en Marruecos cinco Quebrantahuesos. Quercus 205: 45-47.
  • Godino, A., Paz, J.L. & Simón, M.Á. 2004. Localisan mas Quebrantahuesos adultos y jovenes en el Atlas. Quercus 217: 12-13.
  • Godino, A, Paz, J.L., Mouati, N. & Simón, M.Á. 2006. Three years of Bearded Vultures’ surveys in Morocco. In: Frey H, Schaden G, Bijleveld van Lexmond M (eds), Bearded vulture annual report 2005. Wassenaar: Foundation for the Conservation of the Bearded Vulture. pp 98–102.
  • Thévenot, M., Vernon, R. & Bergier, P. (2003). The Birds of Morocco. BOU Checklist No. 20. British Ornithologists' Union, Tring.
Sub-adult seen near Oukaimeden, 7 December 2019 (photo: Brian Stone).

First-year Bearded Vulture, Hight Atlas, October 2013
First-year Bearded Vulture, Hight Atlas, 11 October 2013 (photo: Juliette Boyer).
Juliette Boyer took first ever photograph (above) of a first-year juvenile Bearded Vulture in the High Atlas mountains in October 2013. Thanks to Juliette for the observation and Imad Cherkaoui for the info.


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