Everyone had hoped until the end, but now it's clear: Wally, the female bearded vulture that was released a year ago, is no longer alive. In a few days, two young bearded vultures will be coming to the Berchtesgaden National Park - one of them is Wally's little sister.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen (dpa / lby) - Nobody seriously expected it, but now it is sad certainty: The missing female bearded vulture Wally is dead. A climbing team from the State Association for Bird Protection LBV found the remains of the animal that has disappeared since mid-April. Bones, feathers, rings and transmitters lay in an inaccessible gully at an altitude of 1,500 meters, as the LBV announced on Monday.
"We were always aware that such setbacks could happen, but we are dismayed by Wally's death," said LBV chairman Norbert Schäffer. Why Wally died is unclear.
The causes are still under investigation. The animals could die from collisions with cable car cables, from poisoning with hunting ammunition containing lead, or from being shot illegally. But there are also natural causes such as avalanches or fights with golden eagles.
Wally and the female bearded vulture Bavaria were released into the wild in the Berchtesgaden National Park last summer, more than 100 years after the bearded vultures were exterminated in Germany. In about a week, two young Bearded Vulture females from the same breeding program in Spain are to follow - one of them is Wally's little sister, the second is Bavaria's cousin.
According to LBV, the trip to the Zugspitze was Wally's first major trip over several hundred kilometers - she did not return. Wally was considered more loyal to the location and more domestic than Bavaria, who circled as far as Vienna. She had returned to the Berchtesgaden National Park just at the time of Wally's disappearance.
Bavaria is doing well, emphasized the LBV. The two birds have a large fan base. Many people followed the excursions of the two on the LBV side - and took part in Wally's disappearance.
When she suddenly couldn't be located in April, it was assumed she had just lost the transmitter. Even international experts considered it unlikely that the bird, which according to all data and observations was healthy, could have perished on the inaccessible slopes of the Reintal nature reserve. According to national park project manager Ulrich Brendel, nine out of ten young birds survive the first year in the international reintroduction program.
When the LBV recently received a brief signal from the GPS transmitter for the first time, the conservationists started their search. Experienced climbers set off seven times and abseiled down the rock before they encountered feathers and bones, Wally's leg ring and the GPS transmitter.
"The team set out hopefully with an even more precise idea of the possible site, but such a sad result is of course bitter for everyone involved in the project," said LBV project manager Toni Wegscheider. "We assumed 90 percent that only the transmitter was there."
There are also occasional deaths in other countries such as Austria, France or Switzerland. Overall, according to the LBV, the reintroduction of bearded vultures in the European Alps is more successful than almost any other reintroduction program.
The next two bearded vultures are to come to the Berchtesgaden National Park on June 9th. They will live in the same niche as their older relatives in 2021. The young birds are still called after their breeding numbers BG1145 and BG1147. But they should also get "real" names like their popular predecessors. Many people followed their release intensively via live webcam.
With a wingspan of up to 2.90 meters, bearded vultures are the largest breeding birds in the Alps, but they are harmless to humans and animals: they only eat carrion - and from this almost only the bones.