Efforts are being made to bring bearded vultures back to central Switzerland, where the birds have not been seen since the 19th century. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
For three years in a row, members of the Bearded Vulture Foundation have taken young birds up the Hengliboden mountain in Melchsee-Frutt, Obwalden, watched over and fed them until they could fly.
Bearded vultures were first reintroduced in Switzerland in 1991 in the Swiss National Park . New regions were subsequently added. It has been shown that 88% of reintroduced Bearded Vultures survive their first year. In subsequent years, the annual survival rate rises to 96 %, which is an exceptionally high number for wildlife, according to bearded vulture experts. The birds 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.
The birds have a wingspan of up to 3m and weigh up to about 8kg. Unlike most vultures, they are not bald.