Survey of Vultures

Survey of Vultures

News: There are 246 vultures spread across Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, according to the first-ever synchronised census on the bird carried out in February 2023.

Key Findings:
 The survey was carried out in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) and the adjoining landscape consisting of Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve (STR) in Tamil Nadu, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS) in Kerala, Bandipur Tiger Reserve (BTR) and Nagerhole Tiger Reserve (NTR) in Karnataka.
 Volunteers sighted White-rumped vultures (183), Long-billed vultures (30), Red-headed vultures (28), Egyptian vultures (3), Himalayan Griffon (1), and Cinereous vultures (1).
 Vultures are witnessing a catastrophic decline from the 2000s as these species are being exposed to diclofenac drug which is mainly used as a painkiller for cattle and experts believe that increasing wild carcass availability was one of the major steps needed to help vultures thrive.

What are Vultures?
 It is one of the 22 species of large carrion-eating birds that live predominantly in the tropics and subtropics. They act an important function as nature’s garbage collectors and help to keep the environment clean of waste.
 India is home to 9 species of Vulture namely the Oriental white-backed, Long-billed, Slender-billed, Himalayan, Red-headed, Egyptian, Bearded, Cinereous and the Eurasian Griffon. Most of them face dangers of extinction.
 Bearded, Long-billed, Slender-billed, Oriental white-backed are protected in the Schedule-1 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. Rest are protected under ‘Schedule IV’.

What are the threats it faces and conservations efforts ongoing?
 Poisoning is the most significant threat impacting vultures today. In most cases, vultures ingest poison baits, which are targeted at terrestrial predators such as foxes to protect livestock and game animals.
 When flying or landing on dangerous pylons, vultures often touch wires and die from an electric shock, contributing to declines in populations.
 A form of unintentional poisoning occurs when vultures feed on the remains of livestock treated with certain veterinary products such as the Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatory Drug (NSAID) diclofenac. This drug has caused about a 95% decline of three Gyps species in India within less than a decade.

Conservation efforts
 Recently, the Ministry for Environment, Forests and Climate Change launched a Vulture Action Plan 2020-25 for the conservation of vultures in the country. It will ensure minimum use of Diclofenac and prevent the poisoning of the principal food of vultures, the cattle carcasses.
 To study the cause of deaths of vultures in India, a Vulture Care Centre (VCC) was set up at Pinjore, Haryana in 2001. Later in 2004, the VCC was upgraded to being the first Vulture Conservation and Breeding Centre (VCBC) in India

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