Windfarms to cause an extinction?

Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus)

Death of four Egyptian vultures alerts to the danger of wind farms near the Strait

(This is our translation of an article published by the Spanish daily on 18-06-2017)

The recent killing of four Egyptian vultures by wind turbines on the Spanish coast of the Strait of Gibraltar caused new alarm about the dangers these constitute for flying wildlife.

Environmental groups Verdemar Ecologistas en Accion and Colectivo Cigueña Negra have denounced this week that among the casualties were the female and its young from the last breeding pair of the Tarifa area (Cadiz).

This large bird is one of four species of vultures that nest in Spain, together with the Griffon, the Black and the Bearded vultures. It is officially listed as in danger of extinction.

The Andalusian population of Egyptian vultures suffered a sustained decline in the last decades: half of its breeding pairs have been lost since the year 2000. They are now down to 23, according to the last census of the government of Andalusia collated by Efe.

Both the head of the necrophagous bird program of the Andalusia government, Rafael Arenas, and the researcher of the Doñana Biological Station (CSIC), José Antonio Donázar, have voiced their concern, in recent studies and conferences, regarding the decline of this species in Andalusia, exacerbated by the high mortality of adult specimens.

The unnatural death of adult Egyptian vultures has a great populational impact due to the low productivity of the species, which only raises about one chick per year, and takes 5 years to reach sexual maturity.

The death by collision with a growing number of wind turbines concentrated on the Spanish side of the Strait of Gibraltar has already established itself as the second cause of unnatural death of the Egyptian vulture in Andalusia, and as the main factor towards its extinction along with poisoning.

Verdemar and Cigueña Negra denounced that the death of the four endangered birds evidences deficiencies in the environmental impact statements of the Tarifa wind farms. They also warned that this is just the tip of the iceberg: thousands of birds die every year struck by the blades of wind turbines near the Strait, stage of one of the most important bird migrations between Europe and Africa.

They also criticized the ineffectiveness of the corrective and compensatory measures of these wind farms, such as on-site monitoring to slow down the turbines when birds are flying in their vicinity, and expressed doubts about official mortality figures.

To the concentration of wind farms near the Straits must be added repowering, where smaller, old wind turbines are replaced by modern, much bigger ones.

“Worst of all, the government of Andalusia has not taken any action to avoid the enormous loss of biodiversity caused by wind turbines, especially with regard to species listed as threatened or in danger of extinction,” said the conservation groups.

They also criticized the fact that Andalusia continues to authorize new wind farms, and the repowering of old ones, within or near bird SPAs (Special Protection Areas), despite its explicit prohibition by European legislation.

Finally, they questioned the validity of studies aimed at minimizing the impact of wind farms, or the existence of “intelligent” wind turbines which would avoid the collision of birds. Such works are indeed financed by wind and electricity companies, and entities accused of conflict of interest such as The Migres Foundation.

Click here for the article in Spanish

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