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Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 27, Issue 9, pp 2293–2310 | Cite as

Satellite tracking a wide-ranging endangered vulture species to target conservation actions in the Middle East and East Africa

  • Evan R. Buechley
  • Michael J. McGrady
  • Emrah Çoban
  • Çağan H. Şekercioğlu
Original Paper

Abstract

Vultures comprise the most endangered avian foraging guild (obligate scavengers) and their loss from ecosystems can trigger trophic cascades, mesopredator release, and human rabies epidemics, indicating their keystone species status. Vultures’ extremely large home ranges, which often cross international borders of countries that have differing laws and capacity for wildlife conservation, makes conserving them challenging. However, satellite-tracking data can be used to identify habitat preferences and critical sites to target conservation actions. We tracked 16 Egyptian Vultures, Neophron percnopterus, in the Middle East and East Africa. We used dynamic Brownian bridge movement models to calculate home ranges and core-use areas, and we analyzed habitat use in a resource selection framework. Combined summer and winter ranges (99% utilization distributions) of all birds covered 209,800 and 274,300 km2, respectively. However, the core-use areas (50% utilization distributions) in the summer and winter ranges, accounted for only 0.4–1.1% of this area (900 and 3100 km2, respectively). These core-use areas are where the home ranges of multiple individuals overlapped and/or where individuals spent a lot of time, such as feeding and roosting sites, and are places where conservation actions could focus. Resource selection models predicted Egyptian Vulture occurrence throughout little-studied parts of the species’ range in the Middle East and East Africa, and revealed strong selection for proximity to highways, power distribution lines, and towns. While providing roosts (e.g. power pylons) and food (e.g. garbage dumps), anthropogenic features may also function as ecological traps by increasing exposure to electrocution and dietary toxins.

Keywords

Egyptian vulture Neophron percnopterus Conservation biology Conservation planning Habitat selection Resource selection 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to our collaborators including KuzeyDoğa Society (Turkey); Iğdır Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks (Turkey); American University of Armenia; Ethiopia Wildlife Conservation Authority; Ethiopia Wildlife and Natural History Society; and Djibouti Nature; and our colleagues who assisted with vulture trapping, including Lale Aktay, Kayahan Ağırkaya, Berkan Demir, Lexo Gavashelishvili and Mete Türkoğlu (Turkey); Karen Aghababyan, Anush Khachatrian, and Garo Kurginyan (Armenia); Sisay Seyfu, Alazar Daka Rufo, Yilma Dellelegn Abebe, and Girma Ayalew (Ethiopia); and Houssein Rayaleh (Djibouti). We thank the country permitting agencies that allowed us to trap Egyptian Vultures, including Turkey’s Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks; Ministry of Nature Protection of the Republic of Armenia; Ethiopia Wildlife Conservation Authority; and Direction de l’Environnement et du Développement Durable, Ministère de l’Habitat, de l’Urbanisme et de l’Environnement, and Association Djibouti Nature (BirdLife in Djibouti). RSF modeling was based on a workshop by Peter Mahoney and Michel Kohl. Mark Chynoweth provided insights on the analyses. Mara Elana Burstein provided an internal review. For funding support, we thank the U.S. National Science Foundation, Christensen Fund, National Geographic Society, Whitley Fund for Nature, Faruk Yalçın Zoo, and KuzeyDoğa’s donors (in particular Bilge Bahar, Devrim Celal, Seha İşmen, Yalın Karadoğan, Ömer Külahçıoğlu, Lin Lougheed, Burak Över, and Batubay Özkan). We are grateful to Turkey’s Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs, General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks, and NorthStar Science and Technology for donating three transmitters each.

Supplementary material

10531_2018_1538_MOESM1_ESM.docx (943 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 943 kb)
10531_2018_1538_MOESM2_ESM.docx (87 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 86 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.HawkWatch InternationalSalt Lake CityUSA
  3. 3.International Avian ResearchKremsAustria
  4. 4.KuzeyDoğa SocietyKarsTurkey
  5. 5.College of SciencesKoç UniversityIstanbulTurkey

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