Headline : Poisoned cattle carcass kills 37 vultures
- Around 37 vultures belonging to three endangered species died after feeding on pesticide-laced cattle carcass in eastern Assam’s Sivasagar district.
- Vultures are scavenger birds which feed on the carcasses of large animals.
- Vultures in the country have reduced from 40 million (in 1990) to less than 60 thousand (2012).
- Till mid of 1980s, Vultures were found in large number in India and often classified as nuisance as they were involved in many birdstrikes. However, today it is rare to sight a vulture.
- Vultures are the natural cleaners of the environment:
- By disposing the dead bodies they check the spread of infectious diseases.
- In absence of vultures, the population of animals like rodents and stray dogs tend to increase leading to the spread of rabies.
- Hence, the fast disappearing population of vultures is a serious problem in India and there is need to protect the vultures from threats to its survival.
- Around 37 vultures belonging to three endangered species died in eastern Assam’s Sivasagar district after feeding on pesticide-laced cattle carcass.
- Also, an equal number of vultures were rescued by the forest officials and a wildlife rescue team from the Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre (VCBC), which are in a critical condition.
- It was a case of poisoning the carcass of a cow by the villagers aimed at killing feral dogs but the vultures died.
- Most of the 37 vultures that died are Himalayan griffon and a few are oriental white-backed and slender-billed vultures.
About Vulture species in India
- Vultures can soar to a height of 7,000 feet and can easily cover distance of more than 100 km in one go.
- Vultures belong to various species, nine of which are found in India.
- Of these nine species, four are listed as Critically Endangered, and one as endangered in IUCN red list of endangered species.
- Species of Vultures found in India and their Conservation Status
- Indian Vulture (Gyps indicus)- Critically Endangered
- Indian White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis)- Critically Endangered
- Red-headed Vulture (Sarcogypscalvus)- Critically Endangered
- Slender-billed Vulture (Gyps tenuirostris)- Critically Endangered
- Egyptian Vulture (Neophronpercnopterus)- Endangered
- Cincerous Vulture (Aegypiusmonachus)- Near Threatened
- Bearded Vulture (Gypaetusbarbatus)- Least Concern
- Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus)-Least Concern
- Himalayan Vulture (Gyps himalayansis)- Least Concern
Threats to Vulture survival
- Diclofenac: According to Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), veterinary use of diclofenac is the main threat to the Vultures in India. The widespread use of diclofenac as pain reliever in cattle is the cause of Vulture’s mortality in India.
- Habitat destruction Developmental activities like establishment of power projects, irrigation projects, industrial units, construction of highways etc. have ruined the habitats of Vultures resulting into decline in their population.
- Pesticide pollution: The chlorinated hydrocarbon D.D.T (Dichloro Diphenyl Trichloroethane) used as pesticide enters the body of Vultures through food chain where it affects the activity of estrogen hormone, as a result of which the egg shell is weakened consequently the premature hatching of egg takes place causing the death of the embryo.
- Slow breeding rate: Vultures lay a single egg in a breeding season. Hence their slow breeding rate is also a threat to their survival.
- Use of poisoned carcasses: Poison used by human beings to kill cattle-marauding carnivores is also a threat to Vultures in India, as consumption of such poisoned carcasses by Vulture leads to their death.
- Lack of legal protection: Out of nine species of Vultures found in India only one that is the Bearded Vulture (Gypaetusbarbatus) is protected by law and hence lack of legal protection is also a threat to their survival.
Conservation of Vultures
- Replacing diclofenac: There is need to evolve an effective substitute of diclofenac, and the present available substitute meloxicam needs to be subsidized.
- Captive-breeding programme: This with aim to reintroduce Vultures into the wild need to be launched on large scale, particularly for Critically Endangered and Endangered species of Vultures.
- Legal protection: All efforts should be made to protect and conserve the Near Threatened and Least Concern species of Vultures in India and all the species of Vultures should be legally protected.
- In situ conservation: There is need to set up Vulture feeding stations through provision of poison-free food, clean water, bone chips and perches within an open-roofed wire-mesh enclosure for safety and freedom of Vultures.
- Habitat restoration:Degraded habitats of Vultures need to be restored.
- Protection:Full protection must be given to nests of the Vultures in their breeding habitat.