THIS new project of fitting a GPS unit to a Griffon vulture is not to help its sense of direction but to feed back useful information about its movement during the annual migration.
Organised by scientists from the Department of the Environment and the Gibraltar Ornithological & Natural History Society (GONHS) Raptor Unit the aim is to track the movement of the vulture once released using a lightweight GPS transmitter.
The project has been launched to coincide with World Environment Day, which this year aims to connect people with nature.
Griffon vultures are commonly observed in Gibraltar during the spring. Their sheer size, as well as the uproar created by the resident Yellow-legged Gulls, has become one of the local highlights of the migration period.
This project, known as Vulture track, aims to provide useful information on the wintering grounds of migrating Griffon vultures in Africa as well as the movements and foraging patterns of the birds in their breeding grounds in Europe.
The first Vulture to be fitted with a solar-powered GPS tracker, known as Harry, was successfully released from the top of the Rock and it immediately continued with its onward journey.
It was also fitted with a unique wing-tag to help scientists identify the bird in the field. The vulture had been brought down by resident gulls and was cared for by the experts at the GONHS Raptor Unit.
In addition to providing valuable research information that can be used for conservation and environmental education, the project will also help raise awareness on the importance of protecting birds of prey, some of which are threatened in Europe.
This is the latest of several projects which are aimed to connect people with nature. They include the live underwater camera and the live swift nest cameras, all of which can also be accessed in the Thinking Green Website (http://www.thinkinggreen.gov.gi).