Posts Tagged ‘Assamo’

Assamo, the Egyptian vulture we fitted with a satellite transmitter in March, continues to provide information. During the past two weeks he has spent his time in southern Djibouti.  Over the course of the tracking Assamo’s behavior has been variable, highlighting the importance of flexibility for a scavenging bird, particularly in a desert environment.  So, we have seen how Assamo apparently makes use of ephemeral settlements, moving from one to the next.  We have seen him commute to what seems to be a reliable food source at the town of ‘Ali Sabieh.  We have also seen him move over relatively large distances between north and south Djibouti.

During the first half of June 2013 Assamo has spent a lot of his time perched on electricity pylons.  Have a look at the two images below and you can see the pylons on which Assamo roosted (Hint: If you click on the image, it will open up larger in a new window).  This highlights a problem that vultures and other birds face: Electrocution.  Electrocution can be a significant cause of mortality, especially for large soaring birds.  Some pylons designs are more dangerous than others and most of the ones we saw in Djibouti seem to be relatively benign.  Indeed, the pylons in these images appear to be large enough so that electrocution is unlikely.

Here is a link to a report from Bulgaria about an Egyptian vulture electrocuted there, and here is one thing the Bulgarian Society for Protection of Birds is doing about it.  Still, if you want to read more about this problem, try to dig out this reference:

Angelov, I., Hashim, I., and Oppel, S. 2012.  Persistent electrocution mortality of Egyptian vultures Neophron percnopterus over 28 years in East Africa. Bird Conservation International 1-6.

You might also want to visit the blog that is dedicated to Assamo’s movements, where you will find out a little more about him.

Assamo's locations on pylons north of the town of 'Ali Sabieh, Djibouti.

Assamo’s locations on pylons north of the town of ‘Ali Sabieh, Djibouti.

More locations from Assamo on pylons

More locations from Assamo on pylons

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We have posted more information about Assamo’s movement around Djibouti.  Have a look at it here. However, I wanted to point out a pretty interesting feature of his behavior that this tracking is showing.  During most of the tracking Assamo has seemed to move from place to place in a rather random fashion, presumably looking for feeding opportunities and then taking them. During 23-28 May 2013, Assamo abandoned that strategy and seemed to become a commuter to and from what appears to be the garbage dump in the town of Ali Sabieh. He made daily trips in the early morning to the town, then mostly spent his afternoons and nights about 10 km south, just into Ethiopia.  The map below shows you what I mean.  Here is what he did:

22 May 1130 in Ali Sabieh, 1430 in Ethiopia
23 May 0530 in Ali Sabieh, 0830 in Ethiopia
24 May 0530 in Ali Sabieh, 1130 in Ethiopia
25 May 0830 in Ali Sabieh, 1430 in Ethiopia
26 May 0830 in Ali Sabieh, 1430 in Ethiopia
27 May 0830 in Ali Sabieh, 0830 in Ethiopia, 1130 back just east of Ali Sabieh, 1430 farther north
28 May 0830 in Ali Sabieh, 1130 back north of town.

Assamo's locations in Ali Sabieh (mornings) and in Ethiopia (afternoon and night)

Assamo’s locations in Ali Sabieh (mornings) and in Ethiopia (afternoon and night).

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4_17 May2013_Assamo

Assamo‘s movements in northern Djibouti during 4-17 May

Though Assamo hasn’t moved very far during this time period, those movements are still interesting… At least to me they are. Assamo spent most of this time near permanent/semi-permanent settlements (when I zoom in on Google Earth there are cement buildings and fenced compounds).  These settlements are located on two arms of a large wadi system, so most of Assamo’s locations fall within a circle of about 30 km.  He did make some forays out to the NE (16 May), to the West (5 May) and even to Tadjoura (6 May).  We have not recorded him re-visiting the site where he was caught.  That could be because locations are determined at intervals throughout the day, and so he could have visited and we missed it.  Of course, it could also be that he just hasn’t gone back to the Tadjoura abattoir.

Remember to visit our other blog, which has a bit more information, and a more complete historical account of what Assamo’s been up to since being fitted with a satellite transmitter in March 2013.

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First the good news… Assamo, the Egyptian vulture we are tracking in Djibouti, is still on the move and doing some interesting things.  Here is a map of his/her recent movements (Click on the map to enlarge it into a new window).

Movements by Assamo during 5-18 April

Movements by Assamo during 5-18 April

About 2 weeks ago Assamo was moving around mostly just north of the Ethiopian border, though a foray into Ethiopia was made. On the 16th of April Assamo started heading north, spent about two days near Arta, then moved farther north into northern Djibouti.  As of 18 April Assamo was about 30 km NE of where we caught her/him.  Visit the Djibouti vulture blog for more informationhttp://egyptianvulturedjibouti.blogspot.co.at/.  I have also posted a link on that site to a Google Earth kml with which you can take a closer look at Assam’s movements earlier this month.

And now the bad news…  Egyptian vultures live in a perilous world.  They face threats due to targeted and accidental poisoning, use for bushmeat and traditional medicine and magic, electrocution, collision with wind turbines, and shooting, amongst other things.  Here are two pieces of bad news:  The poisoning of an Egyptian vulture in Greece http://lifeneophron.eu/en/news-view/150.html, and the shooting of an Egyptian vulture in Sudan http://lifeneophron.eu/en/news-view/151.html

Lazarus (HOS/L. Sidiropoulos)

Lazarus, an adult Egyptian vulture poisoned in Greece, spring 2013

Satellite-tagged Egyptian vulture shot at Al Kuraynik, Darfur

Radio-tagged Egyptian vulture shot at Al Kuraynik, Darfur

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By Mike McGrady, Ph.D.
Ecologist at International Avian Research and Research Associate at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.

The Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) is globally endangered; it has, like so many other vulture species, declined as a breeder across its range, which extends from central Europe and Asia to Africa. The causes for its decline are varied, including (amongst other things) accidental and targeted poisoning, persecution, disturbance, decline of food availability, electrocution, and use of body parts for traditional “medicine”.

Egyptian vultures or “Pharaoh’s chicken” is a visually distinctive

Adult Egyptian vulture near the abattoir at Tadjoure.

Adult Egyptian vulture near the abattoir at Tadjoure.
Photo by H. Rayaleh

species, that can be aged in the field from plumage characteristics.  Birds that breed in the northern part of the distribution and their young migrate to Africa, Arabia and maybe India.  It appears that immature birds (< 4 years of age) spend the years prior to maturation in southern parts of their distribution.  In other words, young birds do not generally migrate back to more northerly parts of their breeding range in Asia and Europe.

Given the declines in Egyptian vulture populations in Europe, we undertook a pilot count of the spring migration of raptors, particularly Egyptian vultures, between Africa and Arabia at the Bab el Mandeb Straits.  You can visit our blog about that effort by visiting http://egyptianvulturedjibouti.blogspot.co.at/

Hawk Mountain teamed with us and made available a solar powered, GPS satellite transmitter (a.k.a. GPS PTT or sat tag) to fit to an Egyptian vulture.

Fitting the satellite tag to *Assamo"Photo by H. Rayaleh

Fitting the satellite tag to *Assamo”
Photo by H. Rayaleh

So, on 11 March we captured an adult Egyptian vulture (“Assamo”) and fitted it with the sat tag.  Since then it has been wandering around north central Djibouti.  In the coming weeks, months and hopefully years, we will be regularly posting maps (hopefully about every 10 – 14 days) of Assamo’s movements on this blog and on the Djibouti Egyptian Vulture blog, and discussing what is happening with the bird and with Egyptian vultures, in general.  Please visit the Vulture Chronicles every so often or the Djibouti Egyptian Vulture blog to keep up with Assamo, and comment on his activities or about vulture or Egyptian vulture biology, ecology or conservation.

Let’s get started…

Below is a somewhat dumbed-down map of what Assamo was doing between being captured and 17 March.  I say that the map is dumbed-down because I have removed many of the actual locations of the bird where they were part of a cluster, and then I re-labelled the location with the date or range of dates when Assamo was there.  This has resulted in a “cleaner” map that I hope will be easier to follow.

Movement of Assamo during 11 – 17 March, immediately after release.

What is shown in this initial map is that Assamo has not migrated (yet), and so may be part of a resident population.  He (or she… we can’t tell) has been moving within about 60 km of where he was caught, and been moving between scattered locations, sometimes revisiting locations after a gap of some days or hours.

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