Local impact of the reserve effect on a population of vultures

Full Solution
Parc National des Pyrenées
Parc National des Pyrenées

Following the sharp decline in the population of vultures, the Ossau Nature Reserve was created in 1974 on the territory of the Pyrenees National Park to save the couple dozen remaining vultures. 40 years later, hundreds of vultures live in the reserve, and nearly 825 in the French Pyrenees. This increase in population has led to the development of nature tourism and the development of plot rendering agreement with the local farmers.

Last update: 05 Oct 2020
Challenges addressed
Loss of Biodiversity
declining vulture population
vultures, local farmers and local population.
Scale of implementation
Temperate grassland, savanna, shrubland
Biodiversity mainstreaming
Species management
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Indigenous people
Local actors
Outreach & communications
World Heritage
Pyrénées National Park, Cauterets, Hautes-Pyrénées 65110, France
West and South Europe
Summary of the process
The restoration and conservation of a population of vultures require several key elements: protection of individuals, their natural habitat and food resources. Regulatory tools in place at local level (presence of national park creation of the nature reserve) have validated the first 2 points. The food resource of vultures consists primarily of livestock. The establishment of natural plot rendering allows, in addition to the restoration of ancestral links between vultures and pastoralism, to maintain a food supply throughout the year, and under controlled sanitary conditions. The sustainability of the population of vultures is possible only in combination with the social acceptance of the vulture. Capitalizing on the services rendered by vultures is important, and is implemented through the partnership with the farming profession. In addition, the establishment of a tourist offer related to the local population of vultures allows a wider acceptance and strengthens the development of the area by creating jobs and bringing new sources of revenue.
Building Blocks
Tourism development
Vulture house: venue for discovery, vision (camera placed near the nest) and education for young people. The creation of an interpretive trail and discovery around the griffon vulture has been staged around the lives of these birds and interpretive panels to attract the attention of the general public, especially children . Ornithological tours (free or guided). Tourist services such as accommodation and support draw profits from these trips. The tour professionals, who are trained by officers of the National Park, can enhance a hike with the theme of birds of prey and take advantage of the regional and touristic Pyrenees National Park brand. This recognition can lead to increased activity.
Enabling factors
Balancing preservation and enhancement of the natural heritage Promotion of knowledge around raptors. National Park and partners can educate, inform, and pass on their knowledge to economic actors and local decision makers so that they can develop tourism products. (implementation of training / awareness, exchange days for professional accompaniment and tourists). Development of tools and media popularization around raptor knowledge Technical and financial support to local businesses for the definition of a project and the content of interpretation.
Lesson learned
The development of tourism tools around the theme of raptors is part of the economy in rural and mountain areas. The resources dedicated to the awareness or the dissemination of knowledge are essential. Before raising awareness it is important to gain knowledge. Knowledge is provided by staff of the National Park and its partners and then transferred to the tourism actors to take ownership of the topic. But it is also necessary to manage the interactions between raptors and certain tourist activities (disturbance in the nesting activities such as hiking, climbing, aerial activities, ...). Human resources made available by the National Park are important in the development of this activity. They are necessary in terms of knowledge, training, and technical support. The establishment of tools such as cameras or GPS are expensive, thus financial resources are important.
Establishment of plot rendering
Plot rendering is based on a strong partnership between a municipality, the association of farmers in the county (or pastoral Group) and the Pyrenees National Park. The town, which owns the land, extends and provides the plot. The Pastoral Group is responsible for the plot. It supplies the plot with dead carcasses naturally in its operations, and cleans it regularly. The Pyrenees National Park follows the population of vultures, initiated the project, and technically and financially supports the development of the plot.
Enabling factors
The ongoing dialogue between all partners (community, pastoralists, government agencies and National Park) has clarified the need for health monitoring and identified constraints to take into account when planning the plot. The establishment of this plot, accepted by all partners and managed efficiently, took nine months of negotiations. French regulations strongly regulate the fate of animal carcasses. One key to the success of this project lies in the support of the state and taking into account the population of vultures in this area.
Lesson learned
The local context of interactions between livestock and vultures was complicated, with several complaints about interventions of vultures with livestock. The 9 months of project development have highlighted the fact that it is essential to rely on an existing group. It would have been unrealistic to create the breeders’ association to manage the plot rendering. This is the first plot in France managed by a group of farmers. The plots are highly regulated (type and quantity of deposits, health monitoring ...), and collective responsibility can be cause for concern. In this case, although adjustments were necessary, the empowerment of actors has been a success. The last lesson of the project was the strong involvement of the community, the services of the State and National Park, otherwise the project would not have succeeded.

The creation of the Ossau national reserve, managed by the National Park, has resulted in a significant population growth among vultures throughout the Pyrenees. Additional reserve effect results include: - The development of nature tourism linked to the development of this natural heritage (development of a site visit and "the Vulture Cliff" (15,000 annual admissions, broadcast images of cameras filming nesting areas), raptor networking sites discovered between France and Spain, the creation of an interpretive trail around prey, an increase in time that birds stay home, and a rise of foreign customers accompanied by certified output professionals. - Restoring links between farms and mountain vultures, natural renderers valleys and improved perception of vultures among residents and farmers.

Connect with contributors
Other contributors
Philippe Ospital