‘Bone eaters’ are back: Europe’s largest vultures return to French Alps

Europe's largest vultures nicknamed "bone eaters" whom legend has it used to kidnap old ladies, can be seen soaring high over the French Alps once again after disappearing from the region in the early 20th century.

'Bone eaters' are back: Europe's largest vultures return to French Alps
Photo: Francesco Veronesi/Flickr
The bearded vulture, which once inspired fear among the population and according to legend was responsible for kidnapping old ladies and killing flocks of sheep, has made a successful return to the French Alps.
So while elderly ladies and sheep farmers might not be too thrilled, bird watchers will be over the moon.
After a 30-year campaign on the part of activists, the bearded vulture has been returned to the French Alps mountain range after the entire population was killed off by humans in the early 20th century.
A pair of the impressive birds was first introduced to the area from Afghanistan and Russia in 1987 and to the joy of bird enthusiasts, the couple finally produced an infant ten years ago, according to a report in Le Monde.
Today there are 13 pairs of bearded vultures living in France and 39 in the Alps region in total. 
Photo: AFP
But while people will no doubt be excited to see the majestic birds once again flying the skies around the Alps, the creature wasn't always greeted with such enthusiasm. 
With its impressive three-metre wingspan and red pupils, the bearded vulture once inspired fear among the population and according to legend was responsible for kidnapping old ladies and killing flocks of sheep.
However despite it's unusual (and somewhat creepy) appearance, the bearded vulture feeds exclusively on carcasses. 
Also going by the rather unflattering nickname, the “bone eater”, the vulture is known for releasing skeletons in flight which sends them crashing to the ground. 


France’s Asterix park to shut down dolphin show

A major amusement park in northern France said on Monday it would close its dolphin and sea lion aquarium, the day before lawmakers start to debate new animal welfare rules.

France's Asterix park to shut down dolphin show
France has long discussed imposing stricter rules on using wild animals in amusement parks. Illustration photo: AFP

The dolphin shows are a popular attraction at Parc Asterix, which normally has some two million visitors a year, but have long been a target of animal rights activists.

“We've been thinking about this for several years,” the park's managing director Nicolas Kremer told Le Parisien newspaper, saying the site wanted to focus instead on rides and other shows.

He said the dolphins would be transferred to other aquariums in Europe in the next two months, adding: “Reintroduction in a natural environment is not possible for these animals raised in captivity.”

A ban on captive breeding of dolphins and other marine mammals as well as their use in shows is a key part of the draft law, with the debate due to begin on Tuesday.

A previous effort to outlaw the practices by decree in 2017 was thrown out by the Council of State, France's highest administrative court, but animal rights group have kept up pressure for the ban.

“These associations think that captivity is abuse, but I can tell you that we have always ensured the wellbeing of our animals,” Kremer said.

The park, based on the beloved Asterix the Gaul comics, is hoping to reopen for the busy summer season on April 3rd if coronavirus restrictions are lifted by then.

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