Northern Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita): Reintroduction programme in Andalusia

Species: Northern Bald Ibis

The Northern Bald Ibis (NBI) is one of the world most threatened birds, listed as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List. The historical range of Geronticus eremita probably extended throughout North Africa and into the Middle East. Since the beginning of the 20th century, however, the species has been known from two disjunct populations: a western population in Morocco currently estimated at 300 individuals, an eastern migratory population between Syria and Ethiopia (less than 5 individuals) and in Turkey where remain 180 semi-captive birds (BirdLife International, 2015).

A group of volunteers of “Proyecto Eremita” feeding a small group of ibises during the hacking and release period.

Between 2004 and 2011 an experimental programme, “Proyecto Eremita”, was accomplished in La Janda (Cádiz, southwestern Spain), to evaluate the efficiency of different breeding and releasing techniques of ibises coming from the European Endagered Species Programme (NBI EEP) aimed to establish sedentary populations of this species in this area.

A volunteer working in the social imprinting of juveniles

The“Proyecto Eremita” was developed by the regional government of Andalusia (Junta de Andalucía) and ZooBotánico Jerez in collaboration with the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and scientifically advised by Estación Biológica de Doñana (EBD-CSIC). The success of that project encouraged its promoters to undertake the reintroduction program in Andalusia since 2013.

Adult with chicks on nest inside the colony of La Barca de Vejer.

As a result of the “Proyecto Eremita” and the reintroduction program, La Janda has currently a wild population of roughly 80 individuals where a small breeding colony was settled in Vejer de la Frontera (Cádiz) in 2008, reaching the 25 breeding pairs in 2014.

Installation of the Uva-BiTS system.

An adult of NBI tagged by Uva-BiTS tracker.


Among the next challenges for the team involved are the assessments of population viability, as well as advance the knowledge of the ecology of this rare bird. To this end, from 2014 a GPS tracking of some adults and juvenile birds is being conducted to improve insights into the species’ threats and other ecological requirements (Vázquez et al., 2015). Thanks to the Uva-BiTS system we are compiling a high-resolution movement data set through which we intend to study the responses to variations in the internal and external factors of the individuals in an integrated framework for conservation under global change.

GPS tracking of some individuals of the Cádiz population of the NBI.

In addition to strengthen the knowledge about the ecology of the species, this kind of studies should be useful conservation tools, where the biodiversity faces a number of threats such as habitat loss, land-use changes, biological invasions, extreme weather variations and other drivers of global change whose speed and magnitude impede often the ability to respond of the populations.

A flock of ibises.



  • BirdLife International. (2015). Retrieved from
  • Vázquez, J. M. L., Muñoz, M. A. Q., García, I. S., Martín, B. R., Real, D. G., & Prieto, E. A. (2015). Crónica de la reintroducción del “ibis eremita” en Andalucía. Quercus, (349), 14–23.
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Near real-time tracking data (last 3 days of data available per individual bird)
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Contact Persons:

Rafa Silva –

Javier Bustamante –

Estación Biológica de Doñana EBD-CSIC, Sevilla (Spain)

José Manuel López Vázquez –

Consejería de Medio Ambiente. Junta de Andalucía, Sevilla (Spain)

Willem Bouten –

Universiteit van Amsterdam



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