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Rescuing a species The vultures are back

Efforts are being made to bring bearded vultures back to central Switzerland, where the birds have not been seen since the 19th century. (SRF/

Members of the Bearded Vulture Foundation have taken three young birds up the Hengliboden mountain in Melchsee-Frutt, Obwalden, and will watch over and feed them until they can fly. 

The foundation has resettled 38 bearded vultures in Switzerland since 1991. The birds have been breeding in cantons Graubünden and Valais since 2007. 

Bearded vultures prefer desolate areas that are home to predators such as wolves and golden eagles. The vultures feed on bone marrow from carcasses picked clean by other scavengers.

They disappeared from the Alps due to over-hunting. People mistakenly thought they preyed on lambs.

Present day threats include poisons left out for carnivores, habitat degradation, disturbance of nests, reduced food supplies and collisions with power lines.

In 2014, the International Union for Conservation of Nature reassessed the species to 'near threatened’, i.e. one that may be threatened with extinction in the near future. 

The birds have a wingspan of up to 3m and weigh up to about 8kg. Unlike most vultures, they are not bald. 

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