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`Population of critically endangered vultures stable`

Last Updated: Sunday, November 11, 2012 - 12:33

Kolkata: After years of relentless efforts to save vultures in south Asia, numbers of the most critically endangered species have stabilised across India and Nepal, according to a latest study.

Published in the science journal PLoS ONE, researchers have reported the results of long-term monitoring of vultures across India and Nepal.

The survey shows that the population of the three critically endangered vulture species of long-billed, slender-billed and white-backed ones have remained stable in the last couple of years.

The surveys for vultures were undertaken across more than 15,000 km roads in western, central and eastern states of India by Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN) in the lowland regions of Nepal.

The study, however, warned that while the stabilisation in vulture numbers is encouraging, only a small number of the birds remain and they are still extremely vulnerable.

Vultures, which feed on carcasses of animals to survive, die because of the banned diclofenac drug which is still administered to livestock illegally.

Classified as critically-endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the population of vultures has been declined by an alarming rate of over 99 per cent during the last two decades.

Commenting on the positive development, Dr Vibhu Prakash, the lead author of the study and Deputy Director, BNHS said, ?The stabilisation of vulture numbers across India for all the three critically endangered species is the first sign that the government?s ban on veterinary diclofenac is having its desired impact".

Continued efforts were still required to protect the remaining small population, including stopping the illegal use of diclofenac in the veterinary sector, the BNHS deputy director said.

Co-author of the study, Dr Richard Cuthbert from RSPB said till a few years ago, vulture population was nearly halving in number every year.

"A lot of hard work still remains to ensure that the small surviving population can now begin to recover across South Asia and other toxic veterinary drugs do not cause similar impacts like diclofenac," he said.

BNHS, UK-based Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB) along with the government have come under the consortium Saving Asia?s Vultures from Extinction (SAVE) have been working for years to conserve the three critically endangered vulture species.

Crucial in our ecological cycle as scavengers, vultures have a digestive system robust enough to even digest disease-causing pathogens found in rotting meat of dead animals.

In this way they help man prevent outbreak of infectious diseases such as anthrax, rabies, etc.


First Published: Sunday, November 11, 2012 - 12:09

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