A practical guide to methods for attaching research devices to vultures and condors

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Anderson, David 
Arkumarev, Volen 
Bildstein, Keith 
Botha, André 
Bowden, Christopher 

Most species of Old and New World Vultures are globally threatened and accurate scientific studies related to their conservation are therefore essential. The range of available tracking and telemetry devices is becoming wider and they are performing more tasks better, as well as becoming more affordable. These changes open up opportunities to a wider community of researchers, but some of these will initially be inexperienced. Research groups on five continents have attached tracking and telemetry devices to vultures and condors using several methods, including thoracic and pelvic harnesses of various designs and patagial tags. The development of attachment techniques has mostly been conducted independently by a dispersed network of experts and rather little information has been documented and published about the relative advantages and safety of different techniques. The international conservation consortium SAVE (Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction) has identified a growing need to monitor the success of population recovery efforts by safely tagging more Gyps vultures in Asia (SAVE 2020). In addition, the IUCN Vulture Specialist Group (VSG), the Raptors MoU Raptor TAG and others had independently recognised an urgent need to identify and disseminate expertise (CMS Raptors MoU 2018). To address these needs, and under the auspices of the VSG, we invited globallyrecognised experts to participate in a three-day practical workshop at the International Centre for Birds of Prey, in Newent, United Kingdom, in August 2019. The key aims were to compare and document the various current attachment methods and to discuss ways to make the information available for wider use. At present, there is remarkably little published information of this kind with adequate practical detail, so accessible documentation of practical aspects would be an important step forward.

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Two main grants were made early on, which allowed us to proceed: one from the IUCN Species Survival Commission, thanks to the generous support of the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi, and hosted by Global Wildlife Conservation, and a second from the RSPB’s Asian Vulture Programme.