The two Egyptian vulture Sara and Tobia return to Africa … together!

During the autumn migration Sara and Tobia met in western Sicily, crossed the Mediterranean Sea and reached Tunisia on September 8, 2019. A flight over the open sea over 210 km long, interrupted by an overnight stop on the Island of Pantelleria, who carried out traveling always together.

The two Egyptian vultures have their origins in common: both were born in 2015 at the CERM Rapaci Minacciati Center, in southern Tuscany. During the summer of 2015 the two young vultures were released in different places: Sara in Puglia (in Gravina di Laterza) and Tobia in Calabria (in Crotone). Two operations that were conducted by the CERM Association on behalf of the Ministry of the Environment and in collaboration with LIPU BirdLife and the StOrCal Association.

Sara photographed by a camera trap

At the end of the summer the two vultures migrated to Africa at different times and following two different routes: Sara left southern Sicily, crossed the Mediterranean, reached Libya and then arrived in Niger while Tobia left southern Sicily, stopped in Malta, ” landed “in Libya and then went to Mali. In these two African states the two young vultures spent four years, except for summer trips to the north of Algeria.

Tobia in Calabria

In May 2019 both of them returned to Italy and, after some explorations, settled in the neighborhood of the two areas where they had been released. A typical behavior of those species, such as the Egyptian vulture, defined as “filopatriche”, meaning that they “love their homeland” and go back to nesting there. For Sara and Tobia, however, the time to reproduce has not yet arrived because the Egyptian vulture reaches sexual maturity at five or six years of age. For this reason, therefore, it takes a little more patience.

After the summer in Italy, Sara and Tobia left for Africa. At first they both reached Sicily, Sara on August the 5th and Tobia on August the 25th. They went to the Egadi Islands several times, at the western end of Sicily, but then returned to the island without deciding to fly to Tunisia, probably waiting for favorable weather conditions for the crossing.

At last, the unbelievable happened: on September the 6th Sara and Tobia met in Trapani, the following day they reached the Egadi Islands and at 11.00 they left the Island of Marettimo. They flew over the open sea for 130 km and at 17.00 they arrived at the island of Pantelleria, where they spent the night together. Left again at 8 am the two vultures, after 82 km travelled over the Mediterranean, reached Tunisia at 1.30 pm.

The migration to Africa of Sara and Tobia

They have always been together throughout the journey: the data from the GPS with which they are equipped leaves no doubt. For this information the CERM Association thanks the VCF Vulture Conservation Foundation which provided one of the devices and which pays the costs of data transmission.

The same network of ornithologists and enthusiasts that follows the shifts of the Egyptian vulture released in 2019,  as part of the LIFE Egyptian vulture project, has constantly monitored Sara and Tobia during their stay in Italy, also managing to feed them. Colleagues from Tunisia (“Les Amis des Oiseaux / BirdLIFE Tunisia”) and from Algeria have now been informed.

When the two young vultures arrived in Sicily, the CITES Carabinieri Group of the Forestry, Environmental and Agri-food Units of the Carabinieri Corps (CUFA) intensified their surveillance activity, also considering the high risk of poaching affecting the area of Trapani, carrying out constant inspections in the rest areas of the two Egyptian vultures.

Forest Carabinieri committed in monitoring the migration areas of the Egyptian vultures

Life Egyptian Vulture