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Celebrating 30 years of the Bearded Vulture reintroduction and conservation programme in the Mercantour


Press release

HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco visited Saint-Dalmas-le-Selvage on Sunday 2nd July 2023 to celebrate, alongside Mr Charles Ange Ginésy, President of the Alpes-Maritimes Department and President of the Mercantour National Park, the 30th anniversary of the Bearded Vulture reintroduction and conservation programme in the Franco-Italian Marittime Mercantour massif. A programme supported since 2007 by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.

The event was attended by Jean-Pierre Issautier, Mayor of Saint-Dalmas-le-Selvage, Aline Comeau, Director of the Mercantour National Park (PNM), Olivier Wenden CEO of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and Philippe Mondielli, Scientific Director of the Foundation.

Upon arrival, the Sovereign Prince had the opportunity to see a bearded vulture's nest through a telescope, before heading to the Camp des Fourches for a tour of the murals, followed by a countryside picnic.

In three decades of meticulous work, involving numerous institutional, professional, voluntary and private partners, 25 bearded vultures have hatched in the Mercantour, confirming the success of the management and preservation of this emblematic Alpine vulture. To mark this anniversary, one of the vultures was named Trenta.

A look back at a conservation success story

The bearded vulture was exterminated and disappeared from the southern Alps at the beginning of the 20th century. Only a few pairs remained in Europe (Pyrenees).
Since then, awareness has grown of the Bearded Vulture's important ecological role in the ecosystem, and it is now protected at European level.
The first reintroduction of 3 Bearded Vultures to Roubion took place in 1993. During the second reintroduction in 1995, a fourth bird was released and named "Geo".
For more than 20 years, releases continued at sites in the Alpi Marittime and Mercantour parks, alternating each year.

In total, 45 young bearded vultures have been released in the southern Alps.
The 1st reproductions in the wild gave birth to 25 youngsters who have now fledged. It is now estimated that there are around 40 pairs of Bearded Vultures in the Southern Alps, 5 of which are regularly observed in the NMP.
Little by little, natural reproduction has replaced releases, which have now been discontinued in the Mercantour. Actions are being redirected towards :

- protecting breeding sites ;
- monitoring reproduction, genetic knowledge, investigating the causes of mortality, the impact of pollutants and ringing;
- sharing conservation issues with local residents and users.

Charles Ange Ginésy said: "I am delighted to be here with you again for this symbolic meeting to mark our joint investment in the environment and biodiversity.
I would like to thank His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco for honouring us with his presence. Everyone is aware of his powerful commitment to protecting our planet. A few months ago, we walked through the Roure Arboretum together, and he provided invaluable support for our efforts to reintroduce the Bearded Vulture.
I would also like to thank all the partners who have worked for the bearded vulture over the past 30 years, in particular the Mercantour Bearded Vulture Network, which plays a major role in monitoring the birds.
Together with His Serene Highness Prince Albert II, we were lucky enough to observe an adult bearded vulture this morning!
As President of the Alpes-Maritimes Department and the Mercantour National Park, I am committed to protecting and enhancing the tremendous natural treasure that is our territory. It's a treasure that we must pamper and help to flourish, in particular through ecotourism that doesn't spoil it: this is one of the major thrusts of the Department's GREEN Deal policy and that of the CRT Côte d'Azur France.
The success of this repopulation programme is above all a great human adventure spanning more than three decades, and would not have been possible without the strong and determined involvement of a whole network of partners. Indeed, this action has been made possible thanks to the unfailing support of the HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the Foundation for the Conservation of the Bearded Vulture and Europe. More and better than others, HSH Prince Albert II has understood the importance of a new relationship with nature and animal species.
Finally, I would like to highlight the hard work of the National Park teams, who work tirelessly to coordinate and support all these initiatives. Thank you all for your skill and enthusiasm. Long live the Bearded Vulture!"
Jean-Pierre Issautier wished to "thank the Most Reverend HSH Prince Albert II for his involvement in the environmental cause and for his presence here today.

I would also like to thank President Charles Ange Ginésy and the Director of the Mercantour National Park for choosing our commune to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the reintroduction of the bearded vulture to the park. 

We've come a long way since the first releases at Vignols. The bearded vulture is now well established in the southern Alps and the reason we are here today is because a pair of these majestic birds have taken up residence on the rock face of the Prêtre, opposite the hamlet of Bousieyas.

And this morning we were able to observe the third chick born and raised in this nest. Perhaps they chose this spot for its peace and quiet and the abundance of food provided by the presence of numerous wild ungulates and flocks of sheep, since the commune of Saint-Dalmas has always been a mecca for pastoralists". 
Philippe Mondielli added: "This is one of the first programmes that the HSH Prince Albert II Foundation has been able to support since its creation in 2007. It supported the Mercantour National Park and the Parco Naturale Alpi Maritime in this adventure, contributing to the release of 14 chicks until 2015. 
Newly hatched chicks have thus been added to the Bearded Vulture population, testifying to the sustainable establishment of this species.
They are symbols of our ability to work together effectively to conserve wildlife in our territories.
Aline Comeau said: "The whole park team is delighted to be celebrating this anniversary together. The bearded vulture's return to the Alps can already be described as a success: it is also a sign of healthy natural environments, with the return en masse of our populations of large wild ungulates, which feed these great scavenging birds of prey. A complete food cycle is re-established over time.
It's a success story in terms of its duration, its European scope, the mobilisation of the many partners involved and the public momentum it has unleashed!
Faced with the massive erosion of biodiversity, our collective adventure around the lammergeier is good news and a fine example of reconciliation between man and the living world of which he is an integral part".

Photo credit: ©Axel Bastello / Palais princier de Monaco