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

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

References

  1. Al Fazari WA, McGrady MJ (2016) Counts of Egyptian Vultures Neophron percnopterus and other avian scavengers at Muscat’s municipal landfill, Oman, November 2013–March 2015. Sandgrouse 38:99–105

    Google Scholar 

  2. Angelov I, Hashim I, Oppel S (2012) Persistent electrocution mortality of Egyptian vultures Neophron percnopterus over 28 years in East Africa. Bird Conserv Int 23:1–6. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0959270912000123

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Arkumarev V, Dobrev V, Abebe Y (2014) Congregations of wintering Egyptian vultures Neophron percnopterus in Afar, Ethiopia: present status and implications for conservation. Ostrich 85:139–145

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Battin J (2004) When good animals love bad habitats: ecological traps and the conservation of animal populations. Conserv Biol 18:1482–1491. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2004.00417.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Benson JF (2013) Improving rigour and efficiency of use-availability habitat selection analyses with systematic estimation of availability. Methods Ecol Evol 4:244–251. https://doi.org/10.1111/2041-210x.12006

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. BirdLife International (2018) Birdlife Data Zone. http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/home. Accessed 19 Jan 2017

  7. BirdLife International, United Nations Development Programme, The Global Environment Facility (2017) Migratory soaring birds project. In: Migr Soar birds Proj. http://migratorysoaringbirds.undp.birdlife.org/. Accessed 12 Dec 2017

  8. Bloom PH (1987) Capturing and handling raptors. In: Pendleton BAG, Millsap BA, Cline KW, Bird DM (eds) Raptor management techniques manual. National Wildlife Federation, Washington, DC, pp 99–124

    Google Scholar 

  9. Bolker BM, Brooks ME, Clark CJ et al (2009) Generalized linear mixed models: a practical guide for ecology and evolution. Trends Ecol Evol 24:127–135. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2008.10.008

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Boyce MS, Vernier PR, Nielsen SE, Schmiegelow FKA (2002) Evaluating resource selection functions. Ecol Modell 157:281–300. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0304-3800(02)00200-4

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Bridge ES, Thorup K, Bowlin MS et al (2011) Technology on the move: recent and forthcoming innovations for tracking migratory birds. Bioscience 61:689–698. https://doi.org/10.1525/bio.2011.61.9.7

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Buechley ER (2017) Ecology, ecosystem services, and conservation of endangered scavengers. University of Utah

  13. Buechley ER, Şekercioğlu ÇH (2016a) The avian scavenger crisis: looming extinctions, trophic cascades, and loss of critical ecosystem functions. Biol Conserv 198:220–228

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Buechley ER, Şekercioğlu ÇH (2016b) Vultures. Curr Biol 26:R560–R561. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2016.01.052

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Buechley ER, Oppel S, Beatty WS, et al (In Press) Identifying important stopover sites and high-use areas for an endangered migratory soaring bird across three continents. J Av Biol

  16. Burger AE, Shaffer SA (2008) Application of tracking and data-logging technology in research and conservation of seabirds. Auk 125:253–264. https://doi.org/10.1525/auk.2008.1408

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Burnham KP, Anderson DR (2002) Model selection and multimodel inference: a practical information-theoretic approach, 2nd edn. Springer-Verlag, New York

    Google Scholar 

  18. Ceccolini G, Cenerini A, Aebischer A (2009) Migration and wintering of released Italian Egyptian vultures Neophron percnopterus: first results. Avocetta 74:71–74

    Google Scholar 

  19. Crandall RH, Bedrosian BE, Craighead D (2015) Habitat selection and factors influencing nest survival of golden eagles in south-central Montana. J Raptor Res 49:413–428. https://doi.org/10.3356/rapt-49-04-413-428.1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Cuthbert R, Green RE, Ranade S et al (2006) Rapid population declines of Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) and red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus) in India. Anim Conserv 9:349–354. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-1795.2006.00041.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Dogan News Agency (2015) Vultures found mysteriously poisoned, dead in eastern Turkey. Hurriyet Daily News. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/vultures-found-mysteriously-poisoned-dead-in-eastern-turkey-77476. Accessed 12 Dec 2017

  22. Domenech R, Bedrosian BE, Crandall RH, Slabe VA (2015) Space use and habitat selection by adult migrant golden eagles wintering in the western United States. J Raptor Res 49:429–440. https://doi.org/10.3356/rapt-49-04-429-440.1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Donázar JA, Palacios CJ, Gangoso L et al (2002) Conservation status and limiting factors in the endangered population of Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in the Canary Islands. Biol Conserv 107:89–97. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3207(02)00049-6

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. EU Commission (2008) Directive 2008/98/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 November 2008 on waste and repealing certain directives

  25. Fieberg J, Kochanny CO (2005) Quanitfying home-range overlap: the importance of the utilization distribution. J Wildl Manage 69:1346. https://doi.org/10.2193/0022-541X(2005)69

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Fischer JW, Walter WD, Avery ML (2013) Brownian bridge movement models to characterize birds’ home ranges. Condor 115:298–305. https://doi.org/10.1525/cond.2013.110168

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Gangoso L, Agudo R, Anadon JD et al (2013) Reinventing mutualism between humans and wild fauna: insights from vultures as ecosystem services providers. Conserv Lett 6:172–179. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1755-263X.2012.00289.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Garcia-Fernandez AJ, Sanchez-Garcia JA, Jimenez-Montalban P, Luna A (1995) Lead and cadmium in wild birds in southeastern Spain. Environ Toxicol Chem 14:2049–2058

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  29. García-Ripollés C, López-López P, Urios V (2010) First description of migration and wintering of adult Egyptian Vultures Neophron percnopterus tracked by GPS satellite telemetry. Bird Study 261–265

  30. García-Ripollés C, López-López P, Urios V (2011) Ranging behaviour of non-breeding Eurasian Griffon vultures gyps fulvus: a GPS-telemetry study. Acta Ornithol 46:127–134. https://doi.org/10.3161/000164511X625892

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Horne JS, Garton EO, Krone SM, Lewis JS (2007) Analyzing animal movements using Brownian bridges. Ecology 88:2354–2363. https://doi.org/10.1890/06-0957.1

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. Hosmer DW, Lomeshow S (2000) Applied logistic regression, 2nd edn. Wiley Interscience Publication, Hoboken

    Google Scholar 

  33. Hsu A et al (2016) 2018 environmental performance index. New Haven, CT

    Google Scholar 

  34. IUCN, UNEP-WCMC (2012) The world database on protected areas (WDPA). Gland, Switzerland

    Google Scholar 

  35. Jiguet F, Barbet-Massin M, Chevallier D (2011) Predictive distribution models applied to satellite tracks: modelling the western African winter range of European migrant Black Storks Ciconia nigra. J Ornithol 152:111–118

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Johnson DH (1980) The comparison of usage and availability measurements for evaluating resource preference. Ecology 61:65–71. https://doi.org/10.2307/1937156

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Kendall CJ, Virani MZ, Hopcraft JGC et al (2014) African vultures don’t follow migratory herds: scavenger habitat use is not mediated by prey abundance. PLoS ONE 9:1–8. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0083470

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Klaassen RHG, Hake M, Strandberg R et al (2014) When and where does mortality occur in migratory birds? Direct evidence from long-term satellite tracking of raptors. J Anim Ecol 83:176–184

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  39. Kranstauber B, Smolla M (2013) Move: visualizing and analyzing animal track data. R Package Version 1(360):r365

    Google Scholar 

  40. Kranstauber B, Cameron A, Weinzerl R et al (2011) The Movebank data model for animal tracking. Environ Model Softw 26:834–835. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsoft.2010.12.005

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Kranstauber B, Kays R, Lapoint SD et al (2012) A dynamic Brownian bridge movement model to estimate utilization distributions for heterogeneous animal movement. J Anim Ecol 81:738–746. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2656.2012.01955.x

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. Lebeau CW, Nielson RM, Hallingstad EC, Young DP (2015) Daytime habitat selection by resident golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) in southern Idaho, U.S.A. J Raptor Res 49:29–42. https://doi.org/10.3356/JRR-13-00052.1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Lehman RN, Kennedy PL, Savidge JA (2007) The state of the art in raptor electrocution research: a global review. Biol Conserv 136:159–174. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2006.09.015

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Limiñana R, Soutullo A, Urios V (2007) Autumn migration of Montagu’s harriers Circus pygargus tracked by satellite telemetry. J Ornithol 148:517–523

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. López-López P, Garcia-Ripollés C, Urios V (2014a) Food predictability determines space use of endangered vultures: implications for management of supplementary feeding. Ecol Appl 24:938–949. https://doi.org/10.1890/13-2000.1

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  46. López-López P, García-Ripollés C, Urios V (2014b) Individual repeatability in timing and spatial flexibility of migration routes of trans-Saharan migratory raptors. Curr Zool 60:642–652. https://doi.org/10.1093/czoolo/60.5.642

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Manville AM (2005) Bird strikes and electrocution at power lines, communication towers, and wind turbines: state of the art and state of the science—next steps towards mitigation. In: Ralph CJ, Rich TD (eds) Bird conservation implementation in the Americas: proceedings 3rd international partners in flight conference 2002. U.S.D.A. Forest Service General Technical Report PSW-GTR-191, Albany, CA, pp 1051–1064

  48. Markandya A, Taylor T, Longo A et al (2008) Counting the cost of vulture decline—an appraisal of the human health and other benefits of vultures in India. Ecol Econ 67:194–204. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolecon.2008.04.020

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Martínez-López E, Espín S, Barbar F et al (2015) Contaminants in the southern tip of South America: analysis of organochlorine compounds in feathers of avian scavengers from Argentinean Patagonia. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf 115:83–92. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2015.02.011

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  50. Mazerolle M, Mazerolle M (2011) Package “AICcmodavg”: model selection and multimodel inference based on (Q)AIC(c). R package version 1:32

    Google Scholar 

  51. Mendez M, Donazar JA, Godoy JA (2015) Genetic analysis of Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) in the Balkans and Turkey. Sevilla, Spain

    Google Scholar 

  52. Mills LS, Soule ME, Doak DF (1993) The keystone-species concept in ecology and conservation. Bioscience 43:219–224

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Monsarrat S, Benhamou S, Sarrazin F et al (2013) How predictability of feeding patches affects home range and foraging habitat selection in avian social scavengers? PLoS ONE 8:1–11. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0053077

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  54. Naimi B (2015) USDM: Uncertainty analysis for species distribution models. R package version 1.1-12

  55. Ogada DL, Torchin M, Kinnaird M, Ezenwa V (2012) Effects of vulture declines on facultative scavengers and potential implications for mammalian disease transmission. Conserv Biol 26:453–460. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2012.01827.x

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  56. Oppel S, Dobrev V, Arkumarev V et al (2015) High juvenile mortality during migration in a declining population of a long-distance migratory raptor. Ibis 157:545–557. https://doi.org/10.1111/ibi.12258

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Palm EC, Newman SH, Prosser DJ et al (2015) Mapping migratory flyways in Asia using dynamic Brownian bridge movement models. Mov Ecol 3:1–10. https://doi.org/10.1186/s40462-015-0029-6

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. R Core Team (2013) R: a language and environment for statistical computing

  59. Sawyer H, Kauffman MJ, Nielson RM, Horne JS (2009) Identifying and prioritizing ungulate migration routes for landscape-level conservation. Ecol Appl 19:2016–2025. https://doi.org/10.1890/08-2034.1

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  60. Şekercioğlu ÇH (2011) Functional extinctions of bird pollinators cause plant declines. Science 331:1019–1020. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1202389

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  61. Şekercioğlu Ç, Anderson S, Akçay E et al (2011a) Turkey’s globally important biodiversity in crisis. Biol Conserv 144:2752–2769

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Şekercioğlu Ç, Anderson S, Akçay E, Bilgin R (2011b) Turkey’s rich natural heritage under assault. Science 334:1637–1639

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Tauler-Ametller H, Hernández-Matías A, Pretus JL, Real J (2017) Landfills determine the distribution of an expanding breeding population of the endangered Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus. Ibis 159:757–768. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijlh.12426

    Article  Google Scholar 

  64. Vulture Conservation Foundation (2015) Famous Egyptian vulture Igdir found dead in Ethiopia after flying 60,000 km in three years. In: Vulture Conserv. Found. https://www.4vultures.org/2015/04/03/famous-egyptian-vulture-igdir-found-dead-in-ethiopia-after-flying-60-000-km-in-three-years/. Accessed 12 Dec 2017

  65. Walter WD, Fischer JW, Baruch-Mordo S, VerCauteren KC (2011) What is the proper method to delineate home range of an animal using today’s advanced GPS telemetry systems: the initial step. In: Krejcar O (ed) Modern telemetry. InTech Open Access Publisher, Rijeka, Croatia, pp 249–268

    Google Scholar 

  66. Watts BD, Mojica EK, Paxton BJ, Axton BAJP (2015) Seasonal variation in space use by nonbreeding bald eagles within the upper Chesapeake Bay. J Raptor Res 49:250–258. https://doi.org/10.3356/JRR-13-61.1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  67. Wei T, Simko V (2013) corrplot: visualization of a correlation matriz. R package version 0.73 230.231

Download references

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.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Evan R. Buechley.

Additional information

Communicated by David Hawksworth.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 943 kb)

Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 86 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Buechley, E.R., McGrady, M.J., Çoban, E. et al. Satellite tracking a wide-ranging endangered vulture species to target conservation actions in the Middle East and East Africa. Biodivers Conserv 27, 2293–2310 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-018-1538-6

Download citation

Keywords

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