paintings and book to raise funds for vultures in the cork oak savanna

We made 132 observations of vulture groups and counted a total of 931 Griffon Vultures soaring around the rocky tops on our month long journey around Alentejo and Extremadura.  Testament to the stronghold that the Cork & Holm Oak savannas offer to these giant birds, along with the wild mountain habitats.  We thought it would be nice if paintings of this special place could help in some way with conservation so we will be directing 10% of our net proceeds to the Vulture Conservation Foundation.

This dynamic European conservation group led by a friend of ours, Dr José Tavares and with many staff operating in Spain and Portugal, works hard to look after vultures.  VCF recently hosted the European Vulture conference in Caceres in Extremadura last November and currently operates a project on the conservation of the Cinereous Vulture in Portugal and western Spain that focuses very much on the protection of the montados and pine forests where this species nest.  VCF looks after ‘vulture restaurants’ (supplementary feeding points) and have plans for 50+ of these across the border between Spain and Portugal in the next few years.

We are also publishing a book of the paintings and photographs from our trip and an accompanying map which will become available through our website and through Amazon next month..

Vulture populations are declining at an alarming rate around the world especially in Africa where a proportion of the European Griffon Vulture population migrate to from Spain during the northern winter.  The declines are mainly driven by the ease with which an entire colony of vultures may be wiped out with a single poisoning event which are often not even directed at vultures.  In India nearly all the vultures were extinguished by an anti-inflamatory drug used on cattle (diclofenac), and the consequences of losing these important scavengers have been devastating to the local ecology and economy:  the increased incidence of diseases (rabies and anthrax) are thought to have cost the Indian government about $1.5bn annually during the absence of vultures.  But bird of prey populations can recover when the threats are removed and Spain has been a bit of a success story for vultures with Griffon Vultures increasing from 5000 to 30000 pairs.

We must have seen a significant portion of these pairs on the mountain tops that we passed on our journey for this book.  Cork & Holm Oak savanna is clearly a vital habitat enabling vultures to forage and survive in modern Europe so we will be very glad to direct these proceeds from sales of paintings, book, prints and maps from our ‘Dehesa / Montado Journey’ to the Vulture Conservation Foundation and we will add to this 25% of net proceeds from the sale of the Griffon Vulture plate from Rob’s fieldguide on African Raptors (Bloomsbury) with Bill Clark.

The natural cork industry is growing again and earns over $1bn per annum for Portugal alone.  If you buy your wine with a natural cork stopper you are actually helping vultures and other wildlife that need these Cork Oak savannas every time you pop open a bottle!

Special thanks to ESRI and The Peregrine Fund for making freely available the mobile app we used to log these birds on our travels.

Griffon Vulture, Rueppell's Vulture

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