Nepal Vulture Release Shows Removing Diclofenac is Key to Success

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First release of captive-bred* vultures in Asia.

Nepal and Asia witnessed a further landmark for vulture conservation on 17th September 2018, when the Government of Nepal and national and international conservation organisations released 12 critically endangered White-rumped vultures (Gyps bengalensis), including the first eight birds actually hatched within the conservation breeding programme. Releases last year of birds reared (but not hatched) in the programme have so far shown very promising signs of survival and success, and in addition, … Read More

Steppe Eagle Shows Evidence of Diclofenac Toxicity

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Population of three Gyps vultures — white-backed, long-billed vulture and slender-billed — in South Asia decreased by about 90% in the 1990s due to contamination of their carrion food supply with the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac. Since 2006, the use of diclofenac has been banned in India. The IUCN Red Data Book has listed these vultures as ‘critically endangered’. Despite the ban, there is still some unauthorised (and illegal) veterinary misuse of diclofenac using multi-use vials meant for human consumption.

Shockingly, … Read More

Q: How long does Diclofenac remain toxic to vultures in the body of a cow?

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Answer from Chris Bowden, International Species Recovery Officer & Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction (SAVE) Programme Manager:

Unfortunately, diclofenac remains potent to vultures for as long as it is in the tissues. A treated cow has very high levels of diclofenac in its tissues (especially in kidneys, liver, visceral organs as well as muscle tissues) for at least 3 days after treatment, after which it gradually reduces so that a week after treatment it is probably at safe levels … Read More

FDA Maharashtra Issues Order on Diclofenac Malpractices in Veterinary : A Step forward

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Recent pilot surveys by our team indicated a significant lack of awareness as well as rampant malpractice among stakeholders with respect to the veterinary use of (banned) diclofenac in Pune district, Maharashtra. Typical issues reported were :

  • Lack of knowledge on the ban on veterinary use of diclofenac.
  • Unrestricted over the counter sale of diclofenac for veterinary use.
  • Easy access to human formulations of diclofenac for veterinary use.

These issues were raised with senior forest officers. In response to the … Read More

Effective or Not? Has the Ban on Diclofenac to Save India’s Vultures Worked?

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The results of a study published in 2011, five years after the ban in 2006, says yes, there has been a perceptible change in the use of diclofenac for veterinary use. But there is much more work to be done for the ban to be a success and for the country to see a rise in vulture populations.

The Indian subcontinent lost 95 per cent of its vultures in just 15 years. Of the eight species of vultures found in … Read More

Diclofenac Ban Helps Vulture Populations

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The diclofenac ban of 2006 by the Govt. of India has helped arrest the decline in the population of vultures. This was the conclusion of a study by scientists representing the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB), the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge. The study was presented to a gathering of scientists at the International Conference on Indian Ornithology, held at the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), … Read More

Continued Availability of Banned Diclofenac Threatens Critically Endangered Vultures

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A study in the journal, Oryx, has found that Diclofenac is still widely available in general and veterinary pharmacies. In 2004 Diclofenac was established as the primary reason for the decline of the population of vultures in the Indian subcontinent and in 2006, the sale of Diclofenac was banned in India, Pakistan and Nepal. Diclofenac is used to relieve the suffering of dying cattle, which for religious reasons are not put to death right away. Vultures ingest the drug when … Read More

Saving Vultures

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Once the most common large raptor in the subcontinent, the white-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis) has undergone a 99.7% decline over its home range. One of four vultures listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of threatened species, this vulture is now regionally extinct in China, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.

The decline of this species in India was first noticed in Keoladeo National Park, and a country-wide population decline was noted between 2000-2007.

The widespread decline of vultures across South … Read More

Asian Vulture Crisis – It’s Not Over Yet

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The widespread use in cattle of the painkiller and anti-inflammatory drug, diclofenac, led to the unprecedented and dramatic disappearance of vultures over the past 20 years. This inadvertently poisoned around 40 million vultures, causing populations to plummet across South Asia. It’s tempting to think that with the government bans now in place for over ten years, the job is done. While there are indeed some early indications that the remnant vulture populations may be stabilising, albeit at very low … Read More

Bustard, Wires, and the Flight to Extinction

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On behalf of the Bustard Conservation Team, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.

This article is an outcome of Wildlife Institute of India’s ongoing research and conservation activities under the Great Indian Bustard Conservation Project investigated by Yadvendradev Jhala. The team members are, apart from the author, Sujit Narwade, Tushna Karkaria, Bipin C.M., Arjun Awasthi, Mohib Uddin, Devendradutta Pandey, Tanya Gupta, Sourav Supakar, Vineet Singh, Priyamvada Bagaria, Srinivas Y. and Shaheer Khan.

Much of India’s conservation movement has focused on forested … Read More

Mating Indian Vultures, Ramadevarabetta

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In early February​ 2016​, a few of us from Bangalore went to the Ramanagara rocks to see Shaheen Falcons (Falco peregrinus peregrinator). On our way back, we stopped over at the Ramadevarabetta Vulture Sanctuary. We reached the sanctuary around 11 am and spent 1.5 hours there observing the resident vultures. We saw five Long-billed or Indian Vultures (Gyps indicus) and a lone Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus).

There were two courting pairs of Indian Vultures, and we saw both … Read More

Missing – Clean up Crew!

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Of the 9 species of vultures found across the Indian sub-continent, 3 species, the White-Rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis), Long-Billed Vulture (G. indicus), and Slender-Billed Vulture (G. Tenuirostris), have suffered major population declines of over 98%. All three species are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN. This population crash is the fastest decline ever recorded in any bird species, including the dodo before it went extinct.

The main cause for the fall in vulture numbers … Read More

Dead Indian Vulture at Ramanagara, Karnataka

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Ramnagara (or Ramadevarabetta) Vulture Sanctuary, with an area of 346.14 hectares, was declared as a Vulture Sanctuary on January 31, 2012. It has received attention from Bangalore’s ‘wildlifers’ and consequently, there have been a few interesting articles published about this area in the media. However, the story I am about to relate is not a pretty one and exposes the potential deficiencies in vulture conservation strategy.

While birding at Ramanagara on 14th June 2015, Vishnupriya and I scanned the cliffs … Read More

Egyptian Vulture Feeding From a Human Skull, Ken River, Uttar Pradesh

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An Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) feeding on soft tissue from a human skull on the Ken River (near Banda, Uttar Pradesh), December 2013.

River banks across much of north India are used to cremate or immerse the dead, and it is not uncommon to see partly burnt and unburnt corpses along these rivers. Many such remains are eventually consumed by a host of wildlife including vultures, jackals, fish, turtles and crocodiles, wherever they occur, and in the process these corpses … Read More

Feral Dogs – A Growing Threat to Wildlife

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The grasslands of Tal Chhapar in Rajasthan are home to a rich variety of wildlife. Blackbuck dominate the park landscape and during winter, it’s a paradise for birdwatchers. Majestic raptors, fast-flying falcons, agile wheatears, spiny-tailed lizards, the list goes on. While the park has a well balanced ecosystem, wildlife does spill out of the park due to various reasons. Villagers often dump carcasses of their dead animals for open burials at the nearby Goshala. These carcasses attract scavengers, like Egyptian … Read More

Life isn’t fair for the ‘King’!

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As if going from widespread to critically endangered in a few decades (thanks to Diclofenac) wasn’t bad enough, king vultures also have to fend off competitors for their hard won meals; and sometimes the smaller, more nimble opponents take away the booty!

This particular encounter happened one morning in Ranthambhore National Park, as we waited at a spotted deer kill. The vulture flew in to polish off the remains while the tigress was away. But its chances of a … Read More

Dog chasing Griffon Vulture

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I shot this photograph at Jorbeer, Bikaner. There is a dump-yard where carcasses (cattle, camels, etc) from all over the city are dumped. During winter, a large number of Eurasian Griffons (Gyps fulvus) gather here. Even last year, over a 1000 Griffons congregated here. They are also joined by Himalayan Griffons and Cinereous vultures, in smaller numbers. I counted about 30 cinereous vultures there this weekend. That apart, this place also attracts a very large number of Steppe … Read More

Book Review — Threatened Birds of India : Their conservation requirements

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Threatened Birds of India : Their conservation requirements, By Dr. Asad Rahmani
Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) & Oxford University Press, 2012, 861 pp., Rs 3,000 (HB), ISBN 0-19-808597-4

The book under review is a mammoth one. It weighs kilos, has 155 maps, 645 photographs and is 861 pages long. It would take an avid reader well over a year to digest! Only Dr. Asad Rahmani, the Director of the Bombay (not Mumbai!) Natural History Society and their partner Birdlife … Read More

Egyptian Vultures near Hassan, Karnataka

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I spotted a group of over 25 Egyptian Vultures on 12th January 2013, near Hassan, Karnataka. A research paper by scientists from the Bombay Natural History Society (BHNS) shows that the number of vultures in the country increased marginally between 2011 and 2012. While it is heartening to hear of the stabilization, vulture populations are hardly out of the woods, until Diclofenac, the killer veterinary drug that wiped out vultures, is truly eliminated. Its use continues despite a ban. As … Read More

Declaration of a Vulture Sanctuary in Karnataka

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In 2005 a project was proposed for carving out a 217m tall Buddha statue out of a huge 270 m monolith of Handigundi that faces the Mysore – Bangalore road close to Ramanagaram in Karnataka. Many concerned nature lovers strongly opposed this proposal. They argued that it would not just desecrate a hillock and hill range of great antiquity, but also cause irreparable damage to a habitat that was home to a large number of birds, sloth bears and leopards.… Read More

Long-billed Vulture Chick, Ramanagara, Karnataka

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The welcome sight of a Long-billed Vulture chick on the crags of Ramanagara signal some hope for the augmentation of the very low population of this bird in the south of India. As of now, the number of Vultures at this location seem to have dwindled from thirteen, a year or two earlier, to only nine or ten. The painkiller chemical, Diclofenac, which is still not banned for human use, has decimated the population of Long-billed Vultures across the Indian … Read More

Sathyamangalam Forests offer Safe Haven for Threatened Vultures

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Sathyamangalam, along with Wayanad, Nagarhole and Bandipur sanctuaries is offering a protective environment for vultures. Sathyamangalam and Moyar offer open scrub forests that make it easy for vultures to spot carcasses. Since the region is located on migratory paths of animals, carcasses are plentiful too. Vultures have faced over 99.9% decline in their population since 1990s, primarily due to the use of Diclofenac – a painkiller used in livestock. Over 40 vultures of three species were found in Sathyamangalam and … Read More

Around 40 White-rumped Vultures sighted in Panidihing Sanctuary in Assam

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A flock of about 40 white-rumped vultures have been spotted in the Panidihing bird sanctuary in the Sivasagar district of Assam. This is the first sighting in three years of such large numbers. The most common of the nine vulture species, the white rumped Vulture has seen a population decline of over 99% since the early 1990s. The main cause has been cited to be the use of diclofenac, used to treat livestock. Diclofenac causes renal failure in the vultures … Read More

India’s Vanishing Birds

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One of the most significant and exciting achievements of Indian ornithology, in recent years, was the rediscovery of the Jerdon’s Courser in 1986. The last authentic record, by Howard Campbell, was in 1900. First recorded by Capt. Surgeon T.C. Jerdon, an Indian Army Medical Officer, in 1848, it was subsequently reported by Blanford in 1867 and 1871. Always a rare bird, these limited sightings were restricted to a few river-valleys in Andhra Pradesh. Despite surveys by reputed ornithologists like Salim … Read More