Spanish vultures head north, nature group blames EU
Jun 18, 2007, 12:49 GMT
Brussels - Lack of food has driven some 100 vultures from Spain nearly 1,000 kilometres northwards into Belgium, triggering a row Monday between nature groups and the European Union over who is to blame.
'The birds are looking for food,' Dominuque Verbeelen of the nature conservation group Natuurpunt told Flemish broadcaster VRT.
The reason for the migration was that the vultures had been deprived of their source of food - animal carcasses - due to EU regulations.
'In the past, Spanish farmers could leave their dead cattle out in the pastures, but this has been prohibited ever since the mad-cow disease (BSE),' he said.
At the EU, the Commission denied responsibility for the possible demise of the vultures, which are a protected species.
'In view of the BSE danger, there are good reasons for the ban on letting dead animals lie on the pastures,' commission spokesman Philip Tod said.
But he said that Spain and four other southern European countries actually were accorded exceptions to the regulations so that the carcass-consuming birds could continue to find food. Live cattle in these areas only had to undergo regular BSE checks, he said.
According to the VRT a total of 97 vultures had been counted in the Flanders region. But their prospects were scarcely any better.
'They also won't find anything here,' Natuurpunt's Verbeelen said. 'Therefore the probability is great that they animals will starve to death.'
Bird watchers in Germany had also spotted vultures in their country last year. Vultures are the largest bird of their kind in Europe, with a wingspan of up to 2.8 metres and eyes capable of spotting a carcass from an altitude of 3,000 metres.
Vultures fly mainly by using thermals, or rising masses of warm air, to reach their heights. In Belgium, with cool, overcast skies, the large birds are unable to fly, VRT reported.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur