Tripura to raise endangered vultures
The Tripura Forest Department is embarking on a project to breed endangered vulture species in Khowai district through the “Vulture Conservation and Artificial Breeding” program.
The decision was made after noticing that Khowai had a higher concentration of vultures, officials said who added that vultures would be brought in from other states to help with the artificial breeding.
“The project would soon be set up in Padmabil area in Khowai district with money sanctioned by the central government. There would be artificial breeding by bringing in vultures from Haryana and then the offspring would be released into the wild,” said Niraj K Chanchal, Divisional Forestry Officer (DFO) of Khowai.
“Recently, around 30-40 vultures have been sighted in the district. About a decade ago, the scavenger bird was nearly extinct in the state, but the population is increasing now due to habitat improvements by the Forest Department,” he said.
The conservation breeding program appears to be the only action that could save the vultures from extinction, said Principal Chief Conservator of Forestry (PCCF), DK Sharma.
“If 150 pairs of each of the three species could be held and bred in captivity, it would be possible to obtain a derived population of 600 pairs of each of the three species, within ten years of the start of the release program. This will form a genetically diverse and self-propagating population,” he explained.
So far, only three centers have been established by state governments and the Bombay Natural History Society.
Explaining the reasons for the increase in the number of vultures, Chanchal said, it was observed that the planting of Shimul hardwood trees on the river bank helped to improve the habitat, which had been depleted earlier by deforestation. . The vultures have also learned to adapt to the scarcity of food to some extent by consuming animal carcasses floating down the river.
“We have also launched an awareness campaign with locals to plant more Shimul trees, as vultures roost in these leafy trees and they do not give diclofenac (an anti-inflammatory) to their livestock. (because it gets into the food chain and causes kidney failure in vultures). People have responded well to our requests,” he said.
Even after taking the measures, the scavenger bird still faces a food crisis and to deal with it, the forest department plans to set up a colony of vultures, with abundant food options and a suitable ecosystem. Of the nine bird species seen in the country, the white-rumped vulture found in Tripura has been identified as critically endangered by the IUCN.
Although India has banned the manufacture of diclofenac tablets for animals, the pills are made for human use. Farmers often use these tables illegally to treat livestock. Prasenjit Biswas, an ornithologist author of the last flight of the vulture, said human incursion and lack of food were the main reasons for the decline in the population of this large bird.
Rudra Sagar Lake, its surroundings and the Sipahijala Sanctuary with its large lakes and forests were once the favorite haunt of white-rumped vultures until the late 1980s, he said.
“Human corpses are rarely thrown out in the open, while animal carcasses are now safely disposed of. This deprived the vultures of their food source,” added Biswas, who studies movements and traits. vultures for over a decade.
There were only 55 vultures sighted in the state in 2013 according to a department survey. However, no vulture surveys have been carried out since then.
The Indian subcontinent’s vulture population crashed in the 1990s. This was first reported and documented in 1996-97 by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), while monitoring the number of raptors in Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur in Rajasthan.
The BNHS conducted nationwide raptor surveys in many parts of India between 1991 and 1993 and the survey was repeated in 2000 with dramatic results.
“Populations of white-backed vultures and long-billed vultures had declined by more than 92% between 1991-93 and 2000. By 2007, the population had declined by 99.9% for white-backed vultures. and 97% for long-billed and slender-billed vultures All three species of vultures were listed by the IUCN, the World Conservation Union, in 2000 as “critically endangered”, which is the highest category of danger,” Sharma said. PTI.
This assessment indicated a high risk of global extinction in the wild in the near future. Vultures are also listed in Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act (1972), which is the highest category of protection for wildlife in the country.
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