Vulture Restaurants and Safe Zones
In November 2011, Becky Day of the Zoological Society of London visited Kailali district, Nepal to observe the progress of project to set up safe feeding zone for endangered vulture species. Vultures are threatened throughout Asia due to a Veterinary drug, diclofenac, entering the food chain and killing vultures. To help the populations recover the drug has been banned and is being replaced with a non-toxic substitute and “Vulture restaurants” have been established to give the vultures safe meals.
Becky with the Samaiji Community Forest User Group These restaurants have been developed and largely run by Community Forest User Groups with guidance from local conservation partners, Bird Conservation Nepal and Earth Group, and enabled by Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund. Here Becky gives an account of some of the things she saw:
'Nothing could have prepared me for the warmth of welcome I received from the Samaiji Forest User Group or the pride they took in their Information Centre and their part in Vulture Conservation. Far from having negative feelings about vultures they have adorned the walls of their centre with lovingly painted images and are pleased that some vultures chose to nest above their houses.'
'It is evident that a comparatively small (in conservation terms) amount of money has achieved a lot here. It compensates farmers for their old and sick cattle, it provides food, water and shelter for these cattle until their natural end
Safe carcasses in safe zones put out for vultures (as a Hindu country, killing a cow is forbidden in Nepal) , it pays the wage of a caretaker and it has allowed the community to build a hide for observations. And the investment appears to be paying off.'
'In 2006, 33 white-backed vulture nests were recorded in the area, so far this year they have recorded 65. However the community are hoping for more, more vultures, but also more income. They are aware that in other areas those running “Vulture Restaurants” are able to welcome tourists, who pay to watch the vultures at a carcass, and the communities have irrigation to grow vegetables which they can sell. In Kailali, they are worried that their funding will run out and their program will cease. In comparison to the Vulture restaurants near Lumbini or Chitwan, it is difficult to see how there could be enough tourism to make the program self-sustaining.'
'There is a large awareness campaign, alerting Nepali people to the plight of the vulture,
Raising awareness through road side signs as well as posters and paintings in the Information Centre and, especially among farmers, vets and veterinary pharmacies, the importance of not using diclofenac. I met with several District officials from the Livestock Services, the Forest Office and Development Committee, all of whom seemed thoroughly committed and in agreement on the work needed to ensure a future for vultures. Lots of effort is also put into public awareness campaigns and for the last three years events have been held to celebrate International Vulture Awareness day , an occasion also marked at ZSL’s zoos. Bird Conservation Nepal have created some eye-catching posters, in particular one portraying Jatayu, the demi-god in vulture form, rescuing the kidnapped Sita, reminding people in a culturally relevant way the importance of vultures.'
'My overall impression was of a successful conservation program with good involvement of all key stakeholders. The vultures were all well fed when I saw them,
Communities living with vultures, there is a nest in the tree just behind these ladies’ homes so I never saw them at a carcass, but can imagine it is an impressive spectacle, one that hopefully future generations will still be able to enjoy.'
Download the PDF to find out more about vulture restaurants and safe zones: Vulture Bulletin 2 2012 Final (1.7 MB)