Vulture population looking up in state

May 21, 2012, 08:19 IST | Adnan Attarwala

Joint project conducted by forest department and NGO reveals improvement in avian scavenger population; birds spotted in parts of Pune, Gadchiroli, Konkan, Sindhudurg

Results of the vulture identification and conservation project, conducted jointly by the forest department and city-based NGO Ela Foundation, has revealed an increase in the population of avian scavengers in places like Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Gadchiroli and some places in Pune.

The project involved over 300 forest officials and villagers, who pitched in to identify the various species of endangered vultures and document the findings.

Encouraging development: The vulture population has seen a rise after the state government initiated a project of setting up five vulture restaurants, in Thane, Nagpur, Nashik, Raigad and Gadchiroli districts

The vulture population has declined by over more than 90 per cent in the last decade due to the unavailability of food and the use of the banned veterinarian drug diclofenac.

“We have distributed brochures to educate people on vultures, reasons for reduction of population and importance of their presence. We have involved people in documenting all species of vultures in places where they are known to be under threat. Since we have found the presence of vultures in newer areas in Mulchi and Gadchiroli, we are exploring more areas,” said Nitin Kakodkar, chief conservator of forest (territorial), Pune.

The conservationists identify the species, document facts observed at areas where they are spotted and location of nesting sites.

Evasive action
The NGOs and the forest department have also advocated the use of meloxicam, a non-steroidal, anti-inflamatory drug (NSAID) instead of diclofenac, which is said to cause visceral gout and kidney failure in vultures that feed on carcasses of animals treated with diclofenac.

According to M K Rao, conservator of forest (wildlife) Pune, after the state government initiated a project of setting up five vulture restaurants in Thane, Nagpur, Nashik, Raigad and Gadchiroli districts, where the birds can feed on carcasses of domestic animals not treated with diclofenac, their population is undergoing a change.

“Earlier they were only found in the Konkan region, but now they are being discovered at many other districts in the state,” said Rao.

Ela Foundation, under its director ornithologist Dr Satish Pande, will release a detailed report on the various species of vultures found in the state by the end of the month.  


Endangered list
Survey conducted by Bombay Natural History Society in 2007 revealed that there are around 11,000 white-backed vultures, 1,000 slender-billed vultures and 44,000 long-billed vultures left in the country. Among the nine species in India, the white-backed, long-billed and slender-billed vultures are recognised as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

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