The only remaining Griffon vulture in Bosnia and Herzegovina named Luka died at the Blagaj Eco Center aviary.
The bird was in and out of the aviary in Blagaj since it was found in bad condition at the end of 2019 near the Drina river where it flew from neighboring Serbia.
As the vulture was equipped with a satellite transmitter, the tracking team from Serbia realized something was wrong on October 27th, 2019, so they informed wildlife volunteers from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a rescue team was dispatched to look for Luka. They found the bird grounded and exhausted, and Luka was taken to the aviary in Blagaj for recovery.
A year prior Bosnia lost its last two Griffon vultures, birds that once flew the country’s sky in dozens.
As the aviary in Blagaj became Luka’s new home, the bird thus became the last living Griffon vulture in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
After recovery, Luka was released into the wild in April 2020, but only 15 days later was again found exhausted, this time in Olovo area in Bosnia.
“Luka was completely exhausted and it took time to bring him back to normal. Recovery took about 20 days. At that time, although he is a vulture, Luka ate from human hands“, said Adnan Đuliman, president of the NGO „Novi Val“, which took care of Luka.
Luka was re-released into the wild on September 5th, 2020 on International Vulture Day, but returned to the aviary after a short “trip”.
During the month of September, Luka had epileptic seizures that lasted for 7 days.
NGO „Novi val“ informed the public on the 5th of January 2021 that Luka passed away.
“The Griffon vulture is a carnivore. It feeds on dead animal remains and is also one of nature’s best cleaners. Until fifty years ago, all four species of European carnivores (griffon, cinereous, Egyptian, and bearded) nested in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We were the only country along with Greece and Spain with all four species of carnivores. By neglecting nature, all four species have become extinct in Bosnia and Herzegovina“, explains Goran Topic from the Ornithological Society „Our Birds“ from Sarajevo.
The Griffon vulture was once a widespread species across the region of Southeast Europe, but it is now endangered and in some parts, like Bosnia, completely extinct.
When it comes to the Griffon Vulture Census in the Balkans, in 2019 teams from Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, and North Macedonia counted a total of 564-571 Griffon vultures.
More specifically, they counted 336 in Bulgaria, 80-87 in Greece, 122 in Serbia, and 26 in North Macedonia.
Griffon vultures are very useful in an ecosystem because they feed on corpses and stop potential outbreaks of diseases among cattle.
Since they have no natural predators, the main cause of the rapid decline in the Griffon vulture population is the consumption of poisoned baits set out by people.
During the last 20 years, a total of 465 vultures were found poisoned in 227 separate incidents across the Balkans, in total an estimated 2,300 vultures have been the victim of poisoning since 1998.