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No short-term effect of closing a rubbish dump on reproductive parameters of an Egyptian Vulture population in Turkey


Changes in food availability that lead to lower reproductive output or lower survival probability are important drivers of the widespread declines in vulture populations. Permanent feeding stations for scavengers, such as vulture restaurants or rubbish dumps, may have both positive and negative effects on reproductive parameters. Here we examine the effects of the closure of a large communal rubbish dump on breeding success and fledging rate of a dense population of the ’Endangered’ Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus in central Turkey to assess whether the closure may have affected the population. We monitored territories from 2011 to 2016, and tested whether the closure of the rubbish dump in early 2015 coincided with changes in reproductive parameters while accounting for confounding variables such as weather and the availability of other predictable foraging opportunities. We found an average productivity of 0.78 fledglings per territorial pair before the dump closed and 0.82 after the closure, an average breeding success of 0.64 before and 0.71 after the closure, and an average fledging rate of 1.17 fledglings per successful pair before and 1.26 after the closure of the rubbish dump. Once confounding variables were accounted for, the closure of the rubbish dump did not have a significant effect on reproductive parameters (P = 0.426 for nest survival and P = 0.786 for fledging rate). We speculate that the Egyptian Vulture population in central Turkey may have sufficient alternative food sources and high levels of intra-specific competition due to its density, so that the closure of the rubbish dump may not have resulted in detectable positive or negative effects. We recommend the maintenance of small traditional animal husbandry farms and disposal practices that mimic the spatio-temporally unpredictable supply of food sources that appears to be most beneficial for avian scavengers.

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