Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu will get a vulture conservation and breeding centre each, according to the Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2020-2025.

Action Plan for Vulture Conservation

  • The action plan was approved by the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) October 5, 2020. An earlier one was formulated in 2006 for three years.
  • The new plan has laid out strategies and actions to stem the decline in vulture population, especially of the three Gyps species:
  1. Oriental white-backed vulture (Gyps bengalensis)
  2. Slender-billed vulture (Gyps tenuirostris)
  3. Long-billed vulture (Gyps indicus)

These three vulture species were listed by  IUCN, in 2000 as ‘Critically  Endangered’,  which is the highest category of endangerment.

  • This would be done through both ex-situ and in-situ conservation.
  • The plan has also suggested that new veterinary non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) be tested on vultures before their commercial release. NSAIDS often poisons cattle whose carcasses the birds pray on.

Highlights of the new plan

  • A system to automatically remove a drug from veterinary use if it is found to be toxic to vultures, with the help of the Drugs Controller General of India.
  • Conservation breeding of red-Headed vultures and Egyptian vultures and the establishment at least one vulture-safe zone in each state for the conservation of the remnant populations in that state.
  • Coordinated nation-wide vulture counting, involving forest departments, the Bombay Natural History Society, research institutes, non-profits and members of the public.
  • A database on emerging threats to vulture conservation, including collision and electrocution, unintentional poisoning, etc.

Why protect vultures?

  • Vultures are often overlooked and perceived as lowly scavengers, but they play a crucial role in the environments in which they live.
  • The scavenging lifestyle that gives them a bad reputation is, in fact, that makes them so important for the environment, nature and society.
  • Vultures, also known as nature’s cleanup crew, do the dirty work of cleaning up after death, helping to keep ecosystems healthy as they act as natural carcass recyclers.

Reasons for Death of Vultures

  • The major reason behind the vulture population getting nearly wiped out was the drug Diclofenac. It was found in the carcass of cattle on which the vultures feed.
    • The drug was commonly administered to cattle to treat inflammation.
    • Its veterinary use was banned in 2008 by the Government of India.
    • Bioaccumulation (the gradual accumulation of substances, such as pesticides, or other chemicals in an organism) of Diclofenac caused kidney failure in Vultures, leading to death.
    • Diclofenac is dangerously fatal for Vultures. Even 1% of it in carcass would kill the Vulture in a short time after it feeds such carcass.
  • The poisoned carcasses were dumped to kill some local stray animals. But when vultures fed on them, it became one of the vital reasons leading to their death.
    • It is imperative to manage our carcass dumps and make sure that poisoned carcasses are not dumped for the vultures to feed on.
  • The forest department cremates the animal carcasses instead of burying them, to keep the poachers away. But this practice is denying food to vultures leading to their death out of starvation.

Species of vulture and their IUCN found in India.