In the News 📰
- The Union Ministry of Environment has launched the Vulture Action Plan 2020-25 for the conservation of vultures in the country.
In Focus: Vultures and Conservation
- Vultures are scavenger birds which feed on the carcasses of large animals.
- Vultures are the natural cleaners of the environment:
- They feed on dead decaying animals therebyenhancing the process of mineral return to the soil.
- Moreover, by disposing the dead bodies theycheck 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.
Vulture species in India:
- 9 species of vultures are found in India.
- Of these nine species, 4 are listed as Critically Endangered species of Vultures and one as endangered species in IUCN red list of endangered species.
- Species of Vultures found in India and their Conservation Status:
- Indian Vulture or Long-billed vulture (Gyps indicus)- Critically Endangered
- Indian/Oriental White-backed Vulture (Gyps bengalensis)- Critically Endangered
- Slender-billed Vulture (Gyps tenuirostris)- Critically Endangered
- Red-headed Vulture (Sarcogypscalvus)- Critically Endangered
- Egyptian Vulture (Neophronpercnopterus)- Endangered
- Cincerous Vulture (Aegypiusmonachus)- Near Threatened
- Bearded Vulture (Gypaetusbarbatus)- Near Threatened
- Himalayan Vulture (Gyps himalayansis)- Near Threatened
- Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus)-Least Concern
Vulture numbers have come down vastly:
- Vultures in India have reduced from 40 million (in 1990) to less than 60 thousand (2012), in one of the most drastic declines in bird populations in the world.
- Between the 1990s and 2007, numbers of three presently critically-endangered species – the Oriental white-backed, long-billed and slender-billed vultures — crashed massively with 99 per cent of the species having been wiped out.
- The number of red-headed vultures, also critically-endangered now, declined by 91%.
- The fast disappearing population of vultures is a serious problem and there is need to protect them to ensure their survival.
Threats to Vultures:
- Diclofenac: Veterinary use of diclofenac as pain reliever in cattle is the main threat to the vultures in India. Vultures feeding on the carcasses of animals recently treated with diclofenac suffer renal failure and die..
- 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 humans kill cattle-killing carnivores is also a threat to Vultures in India, as consumption of such poisoned carcasses by vulture leads to their death.
Conservation of vultures:
- Cutting use of diclofenac for cattle:
- The Ministry of Environment released the Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2006 with the DCGI (Drugs Controller General of India) banning the veterinary use of diclofenac in the same year.
- Captive Breeding Centers:
- The Jatayu Conservation Breeding Centre (JCBC) established at Pinjore in 2001 was the first Vulture Care Centre (VCC) in the country.
- VCCs were later upgraded to Vulture Conservation and Breeding Centres (VCBC).
- At present there are nine VCBCs in India, of which three are directly administered by Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).
- The three species of vultures bred in the VCBC are the White-backed, Long-billed and the Slender-billed vultures.
- The ministry of environment has now also launched conservation plans for the red-headed and Egyptian vultures, with breeding programmes for both.
- Upgradation in status of protection:
- Protection status of White backed, Long Billed and Slender Billed Vultures has been upgraded from Schedule IV to Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
- Vulture Safe Zone programme:
- The Vulture Safe Zone programme is being implemented at eight different places in the country where there were extant populations of vultures, including two in Uttar Pradesh.
- The eight Vulture Safe Zones are diclofenacfree areas with a radius of 100 km and at least one nesting colony.
- An area is declared a Vulture Safe Zone only when no toxic drugs are found in undercover pharmacy and cattle carcass surveys, for two consecutive years, and the vulture populations are stable and not declining.
- The Union Ministry of Environment has now launched the Vulture Action Plan 2020-25 for the conservation of vultures in the country.
- The ministry has been carrying out a conservation project for vultures since 2006, and the decline of the vulture population was halted by 2011.
Vulture Action Plan 2020-25:
- The plan now is to extend the project to 2025 to not just halt the decline but to actively increase the vulture numbers in India.
- The action plan aims to continue to ensure that sale of veterinary Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is regulated and livestock are treated only by qualified veterinarians.
- The Ministry also plans on carrying out safety testing of available NSAIDs on vultures and to develop new ones which do not affect vultures.
- Additional Conservation Breeding Centres are also being planned across the country, along with Vulture Conservation Centres.
- Four rescue centres have been proposed for different geographical areas like Pinjore in the north, Bhopal in ventral India, Guwahati in Northeast and Hyderabad in South India.