'Reason for Hope'

Reintroduction of the Northern  Bald Ibis in Europe

Reason for Hope


Start of one of the largest european species conservation projects  

The Northern Bald Ibis is a migratory bird which was native in Central Europe until the 17th century, before it became extinct due to the huge hunting pressure. Today the Northern Bald Ibis is one of the most endangered bird species worldwide. In the context of an EU project (LIFE+ Biodiversity), with partners in Austria, Italy and Germany, the species is to be reintroduced in Europe. 

The European Union supports the reintroduction of the Northern Bald Ibis in context of the LIFE+ programme. In August 2013 the support agreement was signed. The aim of the project is the reintroduction of this extinct migratory bird species in Europe until 2019. The project is based upon the experiences of a twelve- year- long feasibility study of the species conservation project Waldrappteam. Key aspects are extensive measures against the illegal hunting of Northern Bald Ibisses in Italy.

An exemplary reintroduction project

In spring 2013 the worldwide population of free living Northern Bald Ibisses with intact migratory behaviour was reduced to one single individual in the Middle East. This means that the Northern Bald Ibis as migratory bird species is factually extinct. The project Waldrappteam is the first scientifically based attempt to reintroduce an extinct migratory bird species in its original range. A successfull progress of the project may be exemplary for further reintroduction projects of endangered migratory bird species. 
The main objective of the project is the reintroduction of the Northern Bald Ibis in Europe. The Förderverein Waldrappteam is the coordinating beneficiary of the project. A total of eight partners in Austria, Germany and Italy participates in the project. More than 120 Northern Bald Ibisses are to be migrating between the northern foothills of the Alps and the wintering area in the Tuscany. A first small breeding colony was founded already in Burghausen/Bavaria. Two additional breeding colonies are to be founded in Kuchl/Salzburg and Überlingen/Baden- Württemberg. From 2014 on, six human- led migrations from the various breeding areas to the common wintering area are planned. 

Outstanding ratings of the project Waldrappteam

In context of the LIFE+ programm the European Union supports nature and species conservation projects. During the application period in 2012/12 1.159 applications were submitted in four categories. After a complex selection progress about 40% of the applications were chosen for co- financing. The project Waldrappteam was one of 68 projects submitted for the category LIFE+ Biodiversity. 

Focuses with additonal european benefit

During the ten- year- long feasibility study about 60% of all fatalities (about 50 birds) were caused by illegal hunting actions in Italy. Therefore, the project includes extensive measures to reduce those killings sustainably. The major italian hunting associations and several species conservation organizations declared their support. It is assumed that poaching causes similar losses within other endangered migratory bird species during the autumn migration. Therefore the planned actions against the illegal bird hunting not only helps the reintroduction of Northern Bald Ibisses in Europe, but also to protect other endangered species. 
Another focus with additional european value is the comprehensive veterinary monitoring of the Ibis colonies. Different diagnostic methods are to be compared and combined. Another key aspect is the analysis of the consequences of non- lethal bullet wounds and the resulting lead contamination of the birds. The Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien (especially AO Prof. A. Scope) and other partner institutions will mainly conduct those surveys.

Hightech and Social Media

Recently, 20 g solar transmitters developed by Max- Planck Institut für Ornithologie in Radolfzell (Germany) are tested on Northern Bald Ibisses. The devices register the position of the birds every hour and send the data once a day to the database Movebank. There, scientists and other interested people may follow the movements of the monitored birds, which is mainly interesting during the autumn migrations. 

Additional information concerning the different birds will be published via Social Media (Facebook). In conjunction with a bird adoption programm close links with the birds will be forged, which will further reduce the risk of poaching. 

The position data also helps to identify poachers if necessary. In autumn 2012 an italian bird hunter, who killed two Nothern Bald Ibisses, could be identified by the GPS data. In those cases civil actions are planned. 

Recently, a highly readable article with lots of interesting background information about the NBI project was published in the BBC Wildlife Magazine. You you can read it here.