- 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.
- Four of India’s vulture species are under severe threat.
- 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
- Other Species of Vultures found in India include Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus): Endangered, Cincerous Vulture (Aegypius monachus): Near Threatened, Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus): Near Threatened, Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus): Least Concerned and Himalayan Vulture (Gyps himalayansis): Near Threatened.
- Most of their populations are declining. Their 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.
Why in news?
- The Sigur plateau in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) in the Nilgiris is one of the last remaining regions where a sizable breeding vulture population is clinging on in Southern India.
- Three of the four species seen regularly in the Sigur are on the “critically endangered” list, while the other, the Egyptian vulture, is classified as being “endangered”.
News in detail
- A conservation NGO working on protecting vultures in the landscape highlights that the latest surveys in the MTR buffer zone indicate that there are between 110 and 120 white-rumped vultures ( Gyps bengalensis), 11 and 15 Indian or long-billed vultures ( Gyps indicus) and maybe up to 5 Asian king vultures ( Sarcogyps calvus) in Sigur.
- The Egyptian vulture ( Neophron percnopterus), once widely seen in the Nilgiris, is not believed to have any nesting sites in the region, but is still occasionally spotted.
- Invasive species such as Lantana camara and Eupatorium have taken over large parts of the vultures’ habitat, limiting their ability to scavenge for food.
- One way to help the vultures could be to undertake large-scale removal of invasive species, opening up more grassland where they could scavenge carcasses of both wild animals as well as cattle.
- The Sigur plateau is home to the largest nesting colony of vultures south of the Vindhya Mountain Range which makes conservation of vulture population extremely important.
- The region could potentially help critically endangered vulture species recolonise the surrounding landscapes from where they have become locally extinct over the last few decades because of the use of Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) to treat cattle.