Lanner falcon conservation and its critical issues: new dossier published

Two years of lanner falcon conservation

The second year of LIFE LANNER is coming to an end! We went over the numerous activities carried out for lanner falcon conservation. We also addressed some technical and scientific aspects of the approach and methodology proposed for the project.

The staff of Ente Monti Cimini, the Lazio Region and the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale del Lazio e Toscana have drawn up a dossier which elaborates on the criticalities of the project. The document explains the considerations behind the general intervention strategy and the individual actions. One of the objectives is to highlight how these issues have been carefully taken into consideration in the definition phase of this complex endeavour. We will go over them concisely, referring for any further information to the complete document (which you can download here in Italian).

The decrease in breeding couples and the threat of poaching

Available data on breeding lanners show a sharp decline in Italy as well as throughout Europe. This negative trend is certainly due to the drastic reduction of reproductive couples in the wild. As the only weapon to counter this phenomenon, the C actions of the project aim to a restocking that can be useful and functional to the maintenance of a viable population.

As reported by ISPRA and Arma dei Carabinieri, there have been no poaching incidents reported in central Italy in the last 10 years. In this case, Lazio clearly shows an optimal situation in terms of personnel operating on the regional territory. In fact, Lazio is home to many among park rangers, provincial police agents, and specialists from environmental associations such as LIPU. Therefore, it seems essential to broaden the scope of our training activities. Our partner Ornis italica started with a training course for the recognition of lanners in the field, which kicked off in December 2020.

Lanner falcon rescued from poachers
A lanner in its aviary at Lake Vico rescue centre. This specimen was confiscated from a poacher.

Competition with the peregrine falcon

Any direct competition between peregrine and lanner falcon is a complex and cannot be addressed by containing the former, as it is a protected species. The only viable option is to put in place a more articulated and gradual strategy that involves the release of new lanner subjects, and gather data on interspecific interactions through the analysis of GPS data.

To this one must add the aspects of habitat improvement, namely the maintenance and reopening of foraging and nesting areas.

Captive breeding for lanner falcon conservation

Captive breeding and restocking wild populations with young individuals through the hacking technique, already tested both on other species and on the lanner falcon in other countries, constitutes one of the actions to directly counter the dramatic decline of the species. Each individual used for this purpose will be genetically characterized.

These operations are part of a rich set of actions than the project aims to put in place, also in order to evaluate its effectiveness and outline priorities and longer strategies term for lanner falcon conservation.

The origin of the breeding stock

For a species such as the lanner, a captive breeding stock cannot be made up of wild animals. In fact, this would just impoverish the wild stock even more dramatically. The only possible approach is the release of specimens from mixed pairs, which like for other LIFE projects can only be purchased from private breeding centres. The degree of genetic variability and the ability to reproduce, as well as the origin of the birds purchased, are carefully evaluated. It’s just worth noting that the well-known GREFA (Spain) and LPO (France), from which raptor specimens released in other LIFE projects have been sourced, are private associations. In addition to this, the wild lanner couples at the Vico rescue centre are a unique case in Italy.