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European Rewilding Network

Reintroduction of the Northern Bald Ibis

Reason for Hope

Flying with the birds: Leading hand raised offspring of zoo birds with microlight planes is the key method for the establishment of a new migration tradition.
The released birds start up with a migration cycle between a wintering site in Tuscany and breeding sites North of the Alps.
LIFE+ Reason for Hope; Reintroduction of the Northern Bald Ibis
The Northern Bald Ibis is one of the most endangered migratory bird species worldwide, marked as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
J. Fritz / LIFE+ project ‘Reason for Hope’

Reintroduction of the Northern Bald Ibis is one of the largest European species conservation projects.

The Northern Bald Ibis is a migratory bird which was native in Central Europe until the 17th century, before it became extinct due to the huge hunting pressure. Today the Northern Bald Ibis is one of the most endangered bird species worldwide. In the context of an EU project (LIFE+ Biodiversity), with partners in Austria, Italy and Germany, the species is being reintroduced in Europe. As of the end of 2019, when the LIFE+ project was came to its end, the wild Northern Bald Ibis population comprised 140 birds, which is 18% more than defined in the original project objective (119 wild birds).

The implementation of a comprehensive campaign against illegal bird hunting in Italy has almost halved the proportion of losses caused by poaching. While this rate was 60% in the period prior to the LIFE+ project, these losses have been reduced to 31% in the past six years. This is one of the great successes of the project in terms of general species conservation.

By reducing losses from illegal hunting, electrocutions became the primary cause for  Northern Bald Ibis losses. By redirecting funds, the project team was able to implement protective measures in the breeding areas Burghausen and Kuchl as part of two pilot projects. As a result, there were no further cases of electrocution in the respective areas in the past season and it can be assumed that further losses in other large bird species could also be prevented.

The immediate touristic benefit was assessed especially for the city of Burghausen in Bavaria. The colony breeding at the castle is increasingly becoming a tourist attraction and a focal point of nature based tourism. The experts write that the reintroduction of the Northern Bald Ibis in Burghausen anchors the topic of nature conservation and species protection much more strongly in the public consciousness, triggers further nature protection measures, strengthens the work of the local nature conservation groups and promotes local ecotourism.

Project: Reintroduction of the Northern Bald Ibis
Region: Breeding area Burghausen/Bavaria; Breeding area Kuchl/Salzburg; Wintering area WWF Oasi Laguna di Orbetello/Italy
Type of protection: The Oasi Laguna di Orbetello is a conservation area managed by WWF Oasi Italy
Type of project: Fostering the development of nature based economies, Magnification of rewilding impact and practices, Supporting wildlife comeback
Aim and vision: The LIFE+ project lasted until the end of 2019, however the work of the project team continues. The main objective is the reintroduction of the critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita) as migratory bird in Europe to ensure the survival of this bird in its specific life-form. The project was based upon a twelve-year-long feasibility study in accordance with the IUCN guidelines, in whose context a small, migratory breeding colony has already developed. Experimental surveys and long-time experiences with free flying Northern Bald Ibises show that lots of proper habitats exist in Europe, where those birds may live without conflicts with other species, including men. Eight partners from three different countries (Austria, Germany and Italy) have participated in this project to found breeding colonies of Northern Bald Ibises in Burghausen (Bavaria), Kuchl (Salzburg) and Überlingen (Baden-Württemberg). Those colonies are now using a common migration route to the wintering area in Southern Tuscany (WWF Oasi Laguna di Orbetello).
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.
Uniqueness of the project: 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.
Other activities: Community involved, Eco tourism, Education, Research
Results you aim to accomplish in 10 years from now on: 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.
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. As of the end of 2019, the wild Northern Bald Ibis population comprised 140 birds, which is 18% more than defined in the original project objective (119 wild birds).
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.
Map
Country
Austria, Germany, Italy
Start year
2014
Area type
Forest-grassland mosaic, Mountainous, Other
Natural process
Other
Flagship species
Northern Bald Ibis
Reintroduction of the Northern Bald Ibis
Flying with the birds: Leading hand raised offspring of zoo birds with microlight planes is the key method for the establishment of a new migration tradition.
The released birds start up with a migration cycle between a wintering site in Tuscany and breeding sites North of the Alps.
LIFE+ Reason for Hope; Reintroduction of the Northern Bald Ibis
The Northern Bald Ibis is one of the most endangered migratory bird species worldwide, marked as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
J. Fritz / LIFE+ project ‘Reason for Hope’

Reintroduction of the Northern Bald Ibis is one of the largest European species conservation projects.

The Northern Bald Ibis is a migratory bird which was native in Central Europe until the 17th century, before it became extinct due to the huge hunting pressure. Today the Northern Bald Ibis is one of the most endangered bird species worldwide. In the context of an EU project (LIFE+ Biodiversity), with partners in Austria, Italy and Germany, the species is being reintroduced in Europe. As of the end of 2019, when the LIFE+ project was came to its end, the wild Northern Bald Ibis population comprised 140 birds, which is 18% more than defined in the original project objective (119 wild birds).

The implementation of a comprehensive campaign against illegal bird hunting in Italy has almost halved the proportion of losses caused by poaching. While this rate was 60% in the period prior to the LIFE+ project, these losses have been reduced to 31% in the past six years. This is one of the great successes of the project in terms of general species conservation.

By reducing losses from illegal hunting, electrocutions became the primary cause for  Northern Bald Ibis losses. By redirecting funds, the project team was able to implement protective measures in the breeding areas Burghausen and Kuchl as part of two pilot projects. As a result, there were no further cases of electrocution in the respective areas in the past season and it can be assumed that further losses in other large bird species could also be prevented.

The immediate touristic benefit was assessed especially for the city of Burghausen in Bavaria. The colony breeding at the castle is increasingly becoming a tourist attraction and a focal point of nature based tourism. The experts write that the reintroduction of the Northern Bald Ibis in Burghausen anchors the topic of nature conservation and species protection much more strongly in the public consciousness, triggers further nature protection measures, strengthens the work of the local nature conservation groups and promotes local ecotourism.

Map
Country
Austria, Germany, Italy
Start year
2014
Area type
Forest-grassland mosaic, Mountainous, Other
Natural process
Other
Flagship species
Northern Bald Ibis
Specification
Project: Reintroduction of the Northern Bald Ibis
Region: Breeding area Burghausen/Bavaria; Breeding area Kuchl/Salzburg; Wintering area WWF Oasi Laguna di Orbetello/Italy
Type of protection: The Oasi Laguna di Orbetello is a conservation area managed by WWF Oasi Italy
Description
Type of project: Fostering the development of nature based economies, Magnification of rewilding impact and practices, Supporting wildlife comeback
Aim and vision: The LIFE+ project lasted until the end of 2019, however the work of the project team continues. The main objective is the reintroduction of the critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita) as migratory bird in Europe to ensure the survival of this bird in its specific life-form. The project was based upon a twelve-year-long feasibility study in accordance with the IUCN guidelines, in whose context a small, migratory breeding colony has already developed. Experimental surveys and long-time experiences with free flying Northern Bald Ibises show that lots of proper habitats exist in Europe, where those birds may live without conflicts with other species, including men. Eight partners from three different countries (Austria, Germany and Italy) have participated in this project to found breeding colonies of Northern Bald Ibises in Burghausen (Bavaria), Kuchl (Salzburg) and Überlingen (Baden-Württemberg). Those colonies are now using a common migration route to the wintering area in Southern Tuscany (WWF Oasi Laguna di Orbetello).
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.
Uniqueness of the project: 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.
Other activities: Community involved, Eco tourism, Education, Research
Achievements
Results you aim to accomplish in 10 years from now on: 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.
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. As of the end of 2019, the wild Northern Bald Ibis population comprised 140 birds, which is 18% more than defined in the original project objective (119 wild birds).
Exchange
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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