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Saving the vultures of Tamil Nadu

  • Published
    21st Oct, 2022
Context

The Tamil Nadu government has formed a State Vulture conservation committee (SLVC) to check the declining population of vultures in the state.

Details:

  • The State-level Committee for Vulture Conservation (SLCVC) will coordinate between various wings of the government to implement the Action Plan for Vulture Conservation (APVC) 2020-2025.
  • The SLCVC will also set up an institutional framework for the conservation of vultures in the state.

Tamil Nadu is home to four species of vultures:

  • White-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis)- Critically Endangered
  • Long-billed vultures (Gyps indicus)- Critically Endangered
  • Asian king-vulture (Sarcogyps calvus)-Critically Endangered
  • Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus)-Endangered

Vulture numbers are decreasing:

  • The numbers are still extremely low, and even a single poisoning event could lead to several of the species going locally extinct, especially the long-billed Asian king vulture.
  • Breeding seasons have also seen fewer hatchings than is the norm.
  • Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) to treat cattle, such as diclofenac, nimesulide, and ketoprofen among others, have led to the crash in vulture populations across India.

Role of Vulture's local ecosystem:

  • Scavengers: Vultures help prevent the spread of many diseases and can remove toxins from entering the environment by consuming carcasses of dead cattle/wildlife before they decompose.
  • Unfortunately, their tolerance for harmful substances does not extend to man-made drugs.
  • They are also known as nature’s cleanup crew.

Challenges that impact vultures in the State:

  • Temple tourism in the Sigur plateau is centred primarily around vulture habitats, such as Siriyur, Anaikatty, and Bokkapuram.
    • There have been recorded instances of vultures abandoning nesting sites located too close to temples inside these reserves.
  • Invasive weeds: Weeds like Lantana Camara in vulture landscapes hinder the birds from scavenging as their large wing spans require plenty of open areas to safely land and to take to the skies in case of any major threats.
  • Natural Habitats loss: Climate change, and forest fires, the Terminalia arjuna trees, that many vultures use as nesting sites are disappearing.

Steps were taken to protect vultures in the State:

  • Banning the use of diclofenac, a drug, to treat cattle,
  • Putting strict restrictions on the sale of other NSAIDs in the Nilgiris, Erode, and Coimbatore districts.
  • Synchronous vulture census to accurately identify vulture populations and nesting sites.

Conservation Efforts by the Union Government:

  • Vulture Action Plan 2020-25: It advocates the expansion of the Conservation Breeding Programme of vultures by establishing more centers in different parts of the country.
    • It takes cognizance of the causes of mortality other than veterinary drug poisoning of vulture food.
  • Central Zoo Authority (CZA) and Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) are also working on a Vulture Conservation Breeding Programme.
  • A Vulture Care Centre (VCC) was set up at Pinjore, Haryana in 2001 to study the cause of death of vultures in India.
  • Jatayu Conservation Breeding Centre in Pinjore is the world’s largest facility
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