Reintroduced Bearded Vulture Found Dead 100 Years After Species Disappeared

One of a pair of young bearded vultures, a species which disappeared from Germany but was later reintroduced, has been found dead.

Female bearded vulture pair Wally and Bavaria were released into the wild in the Berchtesgaden National Park in southern Germany last summer after successful reintroductions of the bird in other parts of Europe.

Also known by its scientific name, Gypaetus barbatus, the bearded vulture had disappeared from the area more than 100 years earlier.

Wally the bearded vulture
Wally, one of a pair of young bearded vultures — a species that disappeared from Germany 100 years ago but was later reintroduced — has been found dead. Markus Leitner/Zenger

Wally failed to return from her first major trip over several hundred miles to the Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain, in mid-April, and her bones, feathers and a transmitter have been found in an inaccessible gully at an altitude of 1,500 meters (4,921 feet).

The find was made by a climbing team from the Bavarian Bird Protection Society after the transmitter unexpectedly gave a brief signal.

Bavarian Bird Protection Society chairman Norbert Schaeffer said: "We always knew that setbacks like this could happen, but we are saddened by Wally's passing."

Search for Wally the bearded vulture
Toni Wegscheider with a directional antenna during an earlier search operation for Wally. Bavarian Bird Protection Society/Zenger

"It is part of nature that a bird dies, but of course we would have wished her a long life as a bearded vulture.

"Even if there is now sad certainty, we are glad that we at least don't have to grope in the dark about her whereabouts."

The cause of Wally's death is unknown but is under investigation.

Possible causes, according to the Bavarian Bird Protection Society, include collision with cable car cables, poisoning by hunting ammunition containing lead, being shot illegally, an avalanche, or a fight with a golden eagle.

Wally the bearded vulture dies
The search party found the remains of Wally the bearded vulture in an inaccessible rock gully at 1,500 meters in the Reintal. Bavarian Bird Protection Society/Zenger

Wally was considered more domestic than Bavaria, who has flown as far as the Austrian capital of Vienna and is doing well.

The pair are reported to have had a large following, with many following their trips and keeping up to date with the search for Wally in the wake of her disappearance.

The Bavarian Bird Protection Society will soon release two more young bearded vultures into the national park to support the eastern Alpine population.

National park project manager Ulrich Brendel said: "Wally's fate underscores the need for reintroduction projects to be long-term.

"We are therefore looking forward to the forthcoming release of two more young bearded vultures in the wild in the Berchtesgaden National Park."

Bearded vultures
Two bearded vultures named Wally and Bavaria were released last summer in the Berchtesgaden National Park in Germany. Hansruedi Weyrich/Zenger

With a wingspan of up to 2.9 meters (9 feet 6 inches), bearded vultures are the largest breeding birds in the Alps.

They are harmless to humans and other animals and only eat carrion.

The species is categorized as near-threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.