Working from Planckendael ZOO, curator Marleen Huyghe and researcher Philippe Helsen manage the EEP for the Cinereous or Eurasian black vulture (Aegypius monachus). Young birds born in the EEP breeding population are regularly released in Mallorca, Spain, France and more recently, Bulgaria in close collaboration with the Vulture Conservation Foundation. The successful reintroduction and creation of a viable wild population demands a vast amount of expertise, consultation, strength of mind and patience.
Matching breeding pairs is not always successful and the best approach can vary slightly between species. In recent years the cinerious vulture EEP has focused on studying pair formation and breeding success in this species. ZOO Planckendael took the initiative of setting up a European dating aviary where, under the supervision of Marleen Huyghe, birds can choose their own partners, which is crucial for breeding success.
Over the years, our researcher Philippe Helsen has built up a unique collection of samples from cinereous vultures originating from the zoo population as well as the original and reintroduced wild populations. These specimens are used for DNA analyses to gain more insight into the relevance of the EEP birds as genetic back-up population, their breeding success, and the role of the reintroduced animals in the rewilding projects in southern Europe.