New nestlings bring hope for threatened Asian vultures
Tuesday 11 August 2009
The slender-billed vulture - one of the world’s most threatened birds - has been successfully bred in captivity for the first time.
This raises hopes that captive breeding has the potential to save this and other critically endangered Asian vultures from global extinction.
Two slender-billed vultures - which are rarer and more threatened in India than the tiger - have been reared at dedicated breeding centres in India, along with three Oriental white-backed vultures, another critically endangered species.
It is estimated that only 1000 slender-billed vultures remain in the wild and their population is decreasing dramatically every year.
Last year saw the first successful captive breeding of Oriental white-backed vultures and there are encouraging signs that a third critically endangered species, the long-billed vulture, may breed in the centres next year.
Andrew Routh, ZSL’s Chief Veterinary Officer, said: “This fantastic achievement can be attributed to the dedication and hard work of the breeding centre staff. Through sharing our expertise on the veterinary care of these magnificent birds, we look forward to our continued involvement on this collaborative project.”
The project is an ongoing partnership between ZSL and RSPB, Bombay Natural History Society, National Birds of Prey Trust (NBPT), Haryana and West Bengal Governments, National Trust for Nature Conservation, Bird Conservation Nepal.
The RSPB’s Chris Bowden said: “This news is a huge boost to those of us fighting to save Asian vultures, which face extinction in the wild within the next decade unless we can prevent the veterinary use of Diclofenac, which causes acute kidney failure in vultures consuming the carcasses of treated livestock.”
A recent study found the Indian population of Oriental white-backed vultures is dropping by more than 40 per cent every year in India. This is one of the fastest recorded rates of decline for any species.
For every 1000 oriental white-backed vultures recorded in India in1992, only one remains today.
The vultures’ catastrophic decline has been driven by the veterinary drug Diclofenac, which was outlawed in India in 2006. The birds die of kidney failure after eating the carcasses of livestock that have died within a few days of treatment with the drug.
Captive-breeding programmes are a vital part of the effort to save the vultures. One of the slender-billed vultures fledged this year was bred at the Pinjore centre, in Haryana, and the second at Rajabhat Khawa, in West Bengal.
This year’s three Oriental white-backed vultures were also fledged at Pinjore, in Haryana.
Meanwhile in Nepal, an additional initiative led by the National Trust for Nature Conservation, National Birds of Prey Trust (NBPT), Bird Conservation Nepal and the Department of National Parks & Wildlife Conservation, with support from ZSL and RSPB, has successfully collected 44 young Oriental white-backed vultures ready to breed in future.
Vulture conservation in India and Nepal
Populations of three of India’s commonest griffon vultures have declined by more than ninety per cent during the last decade.
Since late 1999 ZSL has been working closely with Bombay Natural History Society and the RSPB to investigate this problem.