Captive breeding helps revive endangered vulture

Guwahati: After the population of the vultures dropped alarmingly in India, a local non-government organization (NGO) in Assam is running a successful programme to raise the population of the fast disappearing vultures.

The captive breeding process for preservation of vultures has been used to increase the population of these extinct scavengers, in an environment controlled by the humans and in restricted settings.

In earlier times, India had adequate vulture population, reason being that the Indian culture is favourable to scavengers. In the agriculture supporting country, dead cattle in India are rarely eaten by humans, and generally consumed by vultures.

But today, most of the species of vulture in India are in danger of extinction.

After Pakistan and Nepal, scientists and environmentalists apprehended that the vulture population in India has declined by more than 97 percent in the last few years.

Parag Deori, project veterinarian, vulture conservation breeding centre Assam, said that, after realising the fact, several conservation and breeding programmes have been started in India.

“It (vulture conservation breeding centre, Assam) has been established in 2007. This centre has been especially established to preserve slender-billed and white-backed species of vulture from extinction,” said Deori.

The root cause of the decline in the number of vultures is said to be diclofenac, a common anti-inflammatory drug, which is used to treat animals.

Vulture, which survives on the flesh of dead animals, tends to consume the drug diclophenac that has been used to treat the animals in their lifetime, a dose that corresponds to a mortal dose for the vulture.

Though this medicine was banned in the year 2008; it is still being sold in animal pharmacies in many areas.

Rapid urbanization, destruction of habitat and many other factors are responsible for causing decline in the population of vultures in South and Southeast Asia.

This natural system of animal discarding is now, however, in the list of endangered species in India, resulting in many environmental consequences.

Vultures reach breeding age at about five years old. The vultures though long lived are slow in breeding, so these programmes can take even decades.

“Currently, we have 61 vultures, of which ten are adults. Our main objective was captive breeding. Last year we achieved that milestone when the centre witnessed birth of a white-backed and a slender-billed species of vultures,” said Deori.

There was considerable dip in the population of vultures in countries like Pakistan, Nepal and India.

By the 1990’s the vultures were on the verge of extinction in Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Singapore by the 1990s.

Vultures are listed as schedule I species in the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, which is applicable to the tiger and one-horned rhino also. (ANI)

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