Reason to cheer: critically endangered white-rumped vulture’s number increasing


BHISMA RAJ OJHA, KATHMANDU, May 23: Here’s a good news for the conservationists and people alike – the findings of a survey conducted in the four consecutive years to determine the rate of changes in vulture population shows that the number of the critically endangered white-rumped vulture is increasing.

The survey charts read that the number of critically endangered white-rumped vulture which is known by ‘Dangar Giddha’ in Nepali is gradually increasing in Nepal.

Results of the survey conducted in the years 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 were enough to say that the number of this vulture has noticeably increased in the recent years. In 2014, the number of this extremely endangered bird was 68 and this graph is found moved upward to touch 111 this year.

The survey also shows that the years 2002 – 2009 were not good in terms of vulture conservation, including the white-rumped. The drastic fall in the number of this species of vulture from 205 to 55 over these eight years was a matter of serious concern for bird conservationists as well as the government.

The dwindling population of these scavenging birds at an alarming rate had prompted the government, bird conservationists and other stakeholders to come up with immediate measures to save these birds also known as ‘nature’s sweepers’ from extinction.

A team of vulture conservationists from Bird Conservation Nepal recently completed the 13th annual highway transects survey of vultures to determine the rate of changes in vulture population.

The survey was conducted following the east-west highway across Terai lowland covering 560 Kms from Narayanghat, Chitawan to Gaddachowki, Kanchanpur, according to BCN’s vulture conservation programme officer Krishna Prasad Bhusal.

The survey was done during 2 May to 12 May 2017 in a vehicle driven at a rate of 20 Km/h. This survey identifies and records all vultures sighted within 1000 metres on either side of the highway. In addition to east-west highway the team also surveyed the mountain routes of Lamahi-Tulsipur-Salyan-Rukum and Bhalubang-Pyuthan-Rolpa-Arghakhanchi-Gulmi-Palpa-Syangja-Kaski-Tanahu-Muglin, he added.

This survey is supported by Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), UK and carried out in collaboration with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Nepal.

In the recent years, the population of White-rumped Vulture is found slightly increasing in western Nepal, he added.

The survey, research and study on vultures had officially begun in 2002 with the highway transect survey.
During the study it was found that the use of veterinary drug called diclofenac in the treatment of livestock in Asia at wider level was one of the main reasons for a dramatic fall in the vulture population.

This anti-inflammatory drug is lethal to these birds. Vultures feeding on carcasses of animals treated with this drug suffer kidney failure and die after a few days.

The government has banned the import of this drug since June 6, 2006 and so far declared 56 districts covering 116,430 sq km area as dicolfenace-free zones, said BCN’s Chief Executive Officer Dr Narendraman Babu Pradhan. Efforts are on to make the concept of ‘safe vulture zone’ successful, he added.

The South Asia has been witnessing a downfall in the number of vultures since 1990. The data from India shows that it suffered 99.95 percent decline in the number of white-rumped vultures in a period of 15 years.

Nepal is home to nine species of vulture and of them, five species are at high risk of extinction not only from Nepal but also from the entire world. They are Bearded Vulture (Lammergeier), Egyptian Griffon, Himalayan Griffon, European Griffon, cinereous and red-headed vulture.

Meloxicam is an alternative to diclofenanc and is not harmful for vultures.

Though the use of dicolofenace has been banned in Nepal, India and Pakistan since 2006, its illegal use and the use of other non-steroidal anti- inflammatory drugs like Nimesulide, Ketoprofen, and Aceclofenac is reason behind the fall in the number of vultures from the South Asia. RSS