Vultures comprise the most endangered avian foraging guild (obligate scavengers) and their loss from ecosystems can trigger trophic cascades, mesopredator release, and human rabies epidemics, indicating their keystone species status. Vultures’ extremely large home ranges, which often cross international borders of countries that have differing laws and capacity for wildlife conservation, makes conserving them challenging. However, satellite-tracking data can be used to identify habitat preferences and critical sites to target conservation actions. We tracked 16 Egyptian Vultures, Neophron percnopterus, in the Middle East and East Africa. We used dynamic Brownian bridge movement models to calculate home ranges and core-use areas, and we analyzed habitat use in a resource selection framework. Combined summer and winter ranges (99% utilization distributions) of all birds covered 209,800 and 274,300 km2, respectively. However, the core-use areas (50% utilization distributions) in the summer and winter ranges, accounted for only 0.4–1.1% of this area (900 and 3100 km2, respectively). These core-use areas are where the home ranges of multiple individuals overlapped and/or where individuals spent a lot of time, such as feeding and roosting sites, and are places where conservation actions could focus. Resource selection models predicted Egyptian Vulture occurrence throughout little-studied parts of the species’ range in the Middle East and East Africa, and revealed strong selection for proximity to highways, power distribution lines, and towns. While providing roosts (e.g. power pylons) and food (e.g. garbage dumps), anthropogenic features may also function as ecological traps by increasing exposure to electrocution and dietary toxins.
Biodiversity and Conservation – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 19, 2018
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