Wednesday, 13 April 2022

Beli Visitor and Rescue Centre for Griffon Vultures: A Great Holiday Stopover  

9 April 2022 – Griffon vultures have made a home along Croatia’s 6,278 km coastline for as long as anyone can remember.

But like much of the world’s biodiversity, griffons have been placed under increasing pressure to coexist with their human neighbors over the past several decades. Since the early 90s, locals on the island of Cres have been banding together to protect their feathered friends. Introducing Beli Visitor and Rescue Centre for Griffon vultures, a tourism must for anyone looking to taste the breath of Croatia’s wild beauty.

Above the sparkling waves of the Eastern Adriatic, one of Croatia’s most precious natural treasures can be witnessed gliding on thermal winds. As if untamed by the forces of gravity that tether the rest of us to the earth, Griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) move effortlessly over skies across the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Central Asia. However, those found on Cres, Krk, Prvić, and Plavnik are unique. Croatia’s special brand of vulture earns its fame from their unusual homemaking behaviour, nesting on the jagged cliffs of the Kvarner islands, a unique sight to this region.

Griffons are spunky creatures, rocking a quilt of brown feathers below and an iconic bald head on top, a feature which I can’t describe as anything other than Muppet-like. While these qualities give the birds their unique look, the purpose of this smooth scalp extends far beyond a possible career on children’s television. As you may already be familiar with, vultures sport this cranial oddity for sanitary reasons, preventing the gore from their favourite foods from getting tangled in their plumage. I guess this is perhaps an unsavoury reminder of the dietary requirements of this nonetheless charming species.

While the vulture nutritional regimen may seem off-putting or even grotesque to some, these avian recyclers play a critical role in world ecosystems. If left unchecked, the rotting carcasses of dead animals provide an ideal environment for bacterial pathogens that could otherwise rot and cause disease. So, we should be grateful to these big-beaked meat eaters, not only for the vital work that they do on the ground but also for the beautiful spectacle they provide.

Fortunately, the people at Beli Visitor Centre happily overlook these natural quirks, committing their time and resources to protect and conserving this species so vultures can continue to call Croatia home for years to come. The center continues a project started by ornithologist Dr. Goran Sušić who led the former Eco-Centre Caput Insulae-Beli from 1993 to 2012. However, in 2014, the project was taken over by Priroda Public Institution.

Located in a building that once housed the local school, Beli Visitor and Rescue Centre is a must for families and youngsters who wish to visit the island of Cres (Something to consider adding to your summer schedule!). The recently refurbished building contains a multimedia exhibition on the griffin vultures and life on the island, also providing workshops where children can learn more about these intriguing arial inhabitants.

The need for a rescue center has proven itself to be great. On average, 10 birds are brought in every year, primarily juvenile birds that fell into the sea during their first flights, but adults sometimes need some help too. While this number may seem small, every bird counts, as griffons only reach sexual maturity at age five, and breeding pairs lay just one egg per year. Moreover, young birds have a high mortality rate of 75%, further exacerbating the need for conservation. If you happen to find an injured vulture while in Croatia, call 112, where your information will be forwarded to the center.

If this sounds interesting to you, get involved! In 2018, Priroda Public Intuitions began a volunteer program. Volunteers are accommodated at the center, supporting the work that Beli has become so famous for.

All the information in this article and more can be found here on the Beli Visitor and Rescue Centre’s website.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Sunday, 6 September 2020

89 Young Griffon Vultures On Kvarner Archipelago Grow Feathers

ZAGREB, Sept 6, 2020 - The Kvarner archipelago, the only habitat for the Griffon Vultures on the eastern Adriatic coast, currently has 125 pairs nested with 89 new fledglings, Nature pubic authority in Rijeka said on the occasion of International Vulture Awareness Day marked on September 1.

This year's monitoring activities of this strictly protected species revealed that their population on the Kvarner islands is stable and has even slightly increased.

Irena Juric, the head of Nature for Primorje-Gorski Kotar County, which manages the Griffon Vulture Recovery Centre in Beli on the northern Adriatic island of Cres, said that the center had recently received six young fledglings that would be cared for at the center until they were strong enough to be placed back in the wild, adding that this spring 10 fledglings saved last year had been released in the wild.

GPS transmitters have revealed that several birds have remained in the Kvarner region while others have migrated to the Pyrenees on the French-Spanish border or south to Albania.

In Croatia, griffon vultures nest only on the Kvarner islands of Cres, Krk, Plavnik, and Prvic. The closest colonies of these birds are in northern Italy and in the Uvac River canyon in Serbia.

At the end of 1969, it was decided to establish the Glavina ornithological reservation on the island of Krk. The reservation was the first of its kind in the world and was dedicated exclusively to protecting the Griffon Vulture.

Together with the partner organizations Zagreb Zoo, BIOM Association, City of Cres, Cres tourist board, and Tramuntana association, the Beli center seeks to raise awareness of the importance of protecting these birds and their way of life. This year an awareness program is being held at the center on Saturday and Sunday, September 5 and 6.

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Sunday, 6 January 2019

Kvarner the Injured Griffon Vulture Found and Treated in Germany

As Morski writes on the 5th of January, 2019, back in October, German rescue workers in Kaditz near Dresden came across an unwell nine-month-old griffon vulture from Kvarner in Radebeul vineyard.

The injured and sickly bird was simply lying exhausted on the ground. Although his wingspan stood at a massive 2.8 feet wide, the unwell bird was exhausted and his weight was a mere kilograms. On his leg he wore a ring labelled "Kvarner", from which his German saviours determined that his country of birth was Croatia, according to a report by Fenix ​​Magazine.

The rescuers collected the unlucky young bird and took him to receive immediate medical attention, in a location at which numerous other sick and wounded bird species are treated.

Over time, the young and rather unfortunate griffon vulture from Kvarner slowly recovered, and his German rescuers named him ''Kvarner'', owing to the ring on his leg. With the proper care and time to heal, Kvarner got better day by day, accumulating extra strength for his return to his native Croatia.

''Now he weighs twice as much than when we first found him. At first he was only eating crumbs, and thanks to the hunters who supported us, he eventually took to eating meat from wild game, and wild boar meat. Now he's even become a little gourmand because instead of eating entrails, he now loves to eat hearts and livers from game animals,'' stated Saskia Keller of the German facility currently treating young Kvarner, who is growing stronger with each passing day.

This young bird of prey from Cres, which is the closest relative of the eagle, will remain in Kaditz until March. He will then be released back to his native Croatia, more specifically in Kvarner bay.

Since a few colonies of such birds can be found on the island of Pag and in the Velebit mountain range, it is estimated that in the Republic of Croatia there are between 110 and 140 pairs of these predatory birds in total.

Make sure to stay up to date with our dedicated lifestyle page for more.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

After Recovery, Seven Griffon Vultures Take to the Skies

The birds spent the summer at the recovery centre on the island of Cres.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Griffon Vulture – Only Remaining Vulture Species in Croatia

Cres and its surrounding islands are some of the few last remaining habitats for this bird species in Europe.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Učka Nature Park to Host Feeding Ground for Griffon Vultures

The surviving Croatian population of griffon vultures will soon be stopping by Učka mountain to feed and nest