Reintroduction of bearded vultures into the wild

The popularity with hunters has led to the bearded vulture's downfall

The bearded or lammergeier vulture is one of the most impressive birds of prey in Europe, native to the Alpine regions. It differs from other types of vultures mainly in its appearance, behaviour and foraging. In contrast to necrophagous vultures, for example, a bearded vulture usually feeds on bones. It can devour this type of food without any competition since its especially aggressive gastric fluids are ideal for digesting bone. It clenches large bones, which it can not break with its beak, in it's claws and just drops them onto rocks or stones from the air so that they break down into smaller bite-sized pieces – this is where the nickname 'bonebreaker' comes from.

Intensive hunting and trophy collectors led to the eradication of the bearded vulture in the Alps and Carpathians at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. After the last kill in 1913 in the French-Italian Western Alps, only a small population was left in the Pyrenees.

International project for reintroduction of the bearded vulture into the wild

An internationally coordinated project with financial support from the WWF and the Frankfurt Zoological Society was launched in 1978 to resettle the bearded vulture back into its natural habitat. The aim of the species conservation project was and still is, to resettle the hand-reared and hatched chicks back into the Alps. The 'Foundation for the Conservation of the Bearded Vulture' was later set up out of this project.

Bearded vultures returning to nature – some of which hatched in Tierpark Berlin

Tierpark Berlin has been actively participating in conservation measures since 1988 and has already handed over twenty-four of the twenty-six chicks reared in the Tierpark to the resettlement project. Fifteen bearded vultures have been reintroduced in the Alps, two in Andalusia and one in the south of France. Tierpark Berlin has thus made a major contribution to resettling the bearded vulture back into its natural habitat in the Alps. And the efforts are continuing, because in order to sustainably improve the numbers out there, more chicks born in the zoo will have to be released into the wild.