LIFE+ Reason for Hope; Reintroduction of the Northern Bald Ibis

  • Country:
  • Start year:
  • Location:
    Breeding area Burghausen/Bavaria; Breeding area Kuchl/Salzburg; Wintering area WWF Oasi Laguna di Orbetello/Italy
  • Area Type:
  • Type of protection:
    The Oasi Laguna di Orbetello is a conservation area managed by WWF Oasi Italy

The Northern Bald Ibis was formerly native in Central Europe, before it became extinct mainly due to hunting. Today it is one of the most endangered migratory bird species worldwide. The aim of the European LIFE+ project is the reintroduction of a migratory population in Europe.

Exotic and charismatic: The Northern Bald Ibis


  • Fauna species reintroduced: Northern Bald ibis (Geronticus eremita)


  • Description: The reintroduction project is based on a ten-year feasibility study. Key method is the establishment of a new migration tradition. Chicks from zoo breeds are raised by human foster parents and trained to follow a microlight plane which then leads them to the wintering area. After release, the birds start up a migration cycle. Two migratory founder colonies could already be established. Further key activities are activities such as the successful agreements with hunting associations to combat illegal hunting of endangered migratory birds in Italy while in the meantime generating awareness, and basic research.
  • Aim: The LIFE+ project lasts till the end of 2019. During this period, a total of at least 120 migratory individuals will be released, divided into three breeding colonies, Burghausen/Bavaria, Kuchl/Salzburg and probably ├ťberlingen/Baden-W├╝rttemberg with a common wintering area in southern Tuscany.
  • Vision: Migratory bird species are highly exposed and heavily threatened. They are particularly affected by the ongoing climate change. Methods developed in this project are assumed to become increasingly essential in the face of these new conservation challenges.
  • Accomplished in 10 years from now: Due to a currently published 10-year single species action plan the species should be downgraded in the Red List within this period. The ongoing reintroduction in Europe per se as well as the development of reintroduction and conservation methods will contribute essentially to reach this goal.
  • Uniqueness: The project contains innovative and demonstrative aspects. It is the first attempt ever to reintroduce a continentally extinct migratory bird species. The human-led migration has been developed to perform close to nature migration flights, meaningful for conservation as well as for basic research.
  • Results so far: Currently more than 60 wild migratory Northern Bald Ibises live in Europe. We gained a high international attention and a good media coverage. Losses by bird hunting, as the major threat, have been reduced and high ranking scientific papers on bird flight and bird migration have been published.
  • Flagship species: Other
  • Other characteristics: Community involved, Eco tourism, Education, Research


  • Inspirational value: We are an enthusiastic team of scientists and conservationists, working on a challenging project and with innovative methods. A very specific value is a close relationship between conservation and basic research. We love to share and discuss our experiences and results. A major topic is to adopt the objectives and methods to changes due to climate change and other anthropogenic impacts.
  • Experience you would like to share: We like to share all our experiences in the scope of reintroduction, conservation, GPS tracking and animal monitoring, public relation and education as well as basic research on bird flight and birds migration.
  • Experience you would like to gain: We are generally interested in conservation and reintroduction topics, particularly with birds. Major interests are also the adoption strategies of species and ecosystems in a rapidly changing world. We like to share experiences with innovative reintroduction that includes raising and training of birds, conservation and an extensive (post-release) monitoring methods.


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