ZSL Embarks on Crisis Mission to Save Indian Vultures
Tuesday 5 October 2004
The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has embarked on a crisis mission to prevent the extinction of three critically endangered species of vulture in India and Nepal. Experts from ZSL flew to Pinjore in Haryana State northern India to secure a founder population of 38 birds for an essential captive breeding effort, to prevent the extinction of these amazing birds
ZSL is working with conservation partners to save three species of Indian vulture, the oriental white back, the long billed and the slender billed vulture. Our research has shown that the population levels of each of the three species are reported to be declining at over 50% per year; this has resulted in a decline of over 97% during the past 10 years. The cause of this catastrophic decline is diclofenac, a drug used in the routine treatment of cattle. Vultures are extremely sensitive to diclofenac and tissue eaten from carcasses of recently treated animals will cause poisoning and the death of literally millions of vultures.
We have been working to save vultures in India for four years and, as part of a Darwin Initiative grant, have set up the Vulture Conservation Centre in Pinjore to research population levels and reasons for this shocking decline and to establish a secure population of all three species to ensure their survival.
"Vultures are not only magnificent animals but they also play an essential role in controlling the disease risk posed by decomposing carcasses," commented Nick Lindsay, ZSL's Head of International Zoo Programmes.
"Population levels are so low and we need to act now to prevent these animals from becoming extinct in the wild."
In order to protect these species, it is essential for us to secure a captive population for re-introduction when the risk from diclofenac has been mitigated. ZSL, in partnership with the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), the Wildlife Department of Haryana State, the RSPB and the National Bird of Prey Trust, is extending the facilities to manage more birds. A new aviary is already under construction and is due to open in mid October with two more planned before the end of 2004. These will provide secure breeding facilities in the future for the birds mature and start to breed.
ZSL is also working with the BNHS and RSPB to encourage local governments to ban the use of diclofenac. However, even though Gujarati veterinary services have been advised to not use the drug, it will take time to completely eliminate this dangerous chemical from the food chain, and to educate those in other areas about the risk that this widely used drug poses.
For further information and images, please contact:
Nathalie Golden, ZSL Senior PR Officer
Tel: 0207 449 6280
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