Reintroduction of the griffon vulture Gyps fulvus in Madonie Park

The Madonie, together with the Nebrodi and Peloritani mountains, form the Sicilian Apennines, a mountain range that represents an uninterrupted territory for the griffon vulture population in Sicily, especially for food foraging.

In 2021, the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Sicilia promoted a scientific collaboration agreement with other entities aimed at encouraging the return of griffon vultures to the Madonie. These entities include the Regional Department of Territory and Environment of the Sicilian Region, the Park Entities of the Madonie and Nebrodi, Rotary International District 2110 Sicily and Malta, and the Municipality of Isnello.

In the Nebrodi, where there is a colony of about 300 griffon vultures, a result of a reintroduction project carried out by the Park Entity, debilitated or injured individuals are frequently recovered. To provide them with optimal assistance, in the summer of 2021, a large rehabilitation aviary was built in the Madonie, located at Contrada Terra Dei Poveri in the Municipality of Isnello, overlooking the cliffs of Balzo Trigna, a historic site where these birds were present until the 1950s.

The griffon vultures recovered in the Nebrodi, starting from August 2021, were moved to the Isnello aviary and monitored by the scientific technical staff of the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale della Sicilia. After completing the rehabilitation period in the aviary, they were released back into the wild, equipped with identification marker rings.

In the Madonie, in addition to an optimal habitat, these vultures find a rich trophic resource due to the abundance of carcasses from grazing livestock (sheep, goats, cattle, and horses) as well as wild ungulates (fallow deer and wild boar).

Two feeding stations for necrophagous birds have been established in the Madonie, one at Contrada Terra dei Poveri in the Municipality of Isnello (PA) next to the griffon vulture rehabilitation aviary, and one at Contrada Piano Farina in the Municipality of Petralia Sottana (PA), at a point overlooking the Pollina River valley, the geographical boundary between the Madonie and the Nebrodi. Considering that there is currently an environmental emergency in the Madonie linked to the increasing population of wild ungulates (wild boars and fallow deer), which have far exceeded the ecosystem’s carrying capacity, the Madonie Park Entity is implementing a control plan that involves culling several thousand individuals each year. Thanks to the feeding stations and the presence of griffon vultures, the disposal of wild ungulate carcasses is carried out naturally, both for those culled under the control plan and those found along the roads, hit by vehicles.

In the Isnello aviary, in addition to the debilitated griffon vultures recovered in the Nebrodi Park, young one-year-old vultures from Spain have also been relocated. After a rehabilitation period, they are gradually released into the wild, following a six-month aviary stabilization period to ensure they can undergo their rehabilitation period or become familiar with the adoption environment where they are located.

For detailed information on the Griffon Vulture reintroduction project, we invite you to download the relevant documents at the following links:

Image Gallery:

Video Gallery:

We have selected two extraordinary scenes captured during the griffon vultures’ meal at the Isnello carnaio, taken with phototraps. One scene shows the Friulian griffon vulture in the foreground, easily recognized by its green marker ring. In the other scene, a particularly striking moment shows the flying passage of a Egyptian vulture.

The griffon vulture colony has grown as wild specimens have joined ours. A significant event documented in the video is the appearance of two Egyptian vultures swooping down, providing a unique and fascinating sight.