What’s the news ?
- In October 2020, eight critically endangered Oriental white-backed vultures were released into the wild for the first time in India from the Jatayu Conservation and Breeding Centre (JCBC) situated at the Bir Shikargah Wildlife Sanctuary in Shivalik ranges of the Himalayan foothills in Haryana’s Pinjore.
- A year later, they have blended well into the untamed habitat outside the aviary, offering hope to conservationists.
About Oriental White- backed Vultures
- Vultures are large, magnificent raptors.
- By cleaning up carcasses and other organic waste in the environment, they provide critically important ecosystem services that also directly benefit humans.
- India has 9 vulture species in the country and Four of India’s vulture species are under severe threat and they are as follows:
- Indian Vulture (Gyps indicus)- Critically Endangered
- Indian White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis)-Critically Endangered
- Red-headed Vulture (Sarcogyps calvus)- Critically Endangered
- Slender-billed Vulture (Gyps tenuirostris)-Critically Endangered
- The species is also known as Indian White-backed Vulture and White-rumped Vulture.
- They can be found in lowlands, and foothills up to 1500 metres of elevation.
- As many as 378 vultures of three species are housed at the centre, of which 131 are Oriental white-backed vultures, 195 are Long-billed vultures, and 52 are Slender-billed vultures.
- The species is found in SE Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, through Nepal and India to SC China, Indochina and N Malay Peninsula.
Decline in Vulture Population
- Vulture Population in India declined by 99.95% Since the 1980s
- In the 1980s, there were around 40 million vultures in India primarily belonging to three species – White-backed Vulture, Long-billed Vulture and Slender-billed Vulture.
- As of 2017, that number has dwindled to a paltry 19,000.
Reasons for Decline
- Uncontrolled veterinary usage of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), including Aceclofenac, Ketoprofen and Nimesulide, and the illegal use of the banned drug Diclofenac.
- Diclofenac is a common anti-inflammatory drug administered to livestock and is used to treat the symptoms of inflammation, fevers and/or pain associated with disease or wounds.
- It was widely used in India beginning in the 1990s.
- Vulture’s decline is associated with use of Diclofenac for cattle treatment which then ends up in their digestive system making them vulnerable to kidney failure and poisoning.
- Though the drug was banned in India in 2006, it is reportedly still available for use.
- Aceclofenac is a “prodrug” of Diclofenac, which rapidly metabolises into Diclofenac after it’s administered to livestock.