Saving Asia's Vultures from Extinction (SAVE)

The Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction (SAVE) programme declared that it has plans to release up to 25 birds into a 30,000-sq-km drug-free “safe zone”. A project hopes to start releasing captive-bred birds into the wild by 2016, after experiencing the devastation wrought by a drug on Asian vulture populations.

In order to ensure that the species affected do not disappear completely from the wild, SAVE identified a number of priorities viz.

  • To establish a number of vast “safe zones” for the captive-bred birds to be released within. The areas have a radius of 100km and the consortium has identified six such areas – some of which cross national borders into Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
  • Establishment of a captive-breeding programme that would provide the birds to be released back into the wider environment, once it was safe to do so.
Why Asian vulture population is declining?
  • Diclofenac, a painkilling drug administered to cattle, is the main cause of mass extinction of vultures.
  • Vultures, which have a digestive system robust enough to even digest disease-causing pathogens found in rotting meat of dead, do not have a critical enzyme that breaks down diclofenac and die of renal failure after eating carcasses of cattle administered the drug.
  • Vultures feeding on cattle either die from acute kidney failure within a few days or lose their ability to reproduce. 

In 2006, India banned the use of veterinary drug “Diclofenac”, which is toxic to any vulture that feeds on the carcass of recently treated cattle, but SAVE in its study, stated that the drug continues to be sold and used illegally today.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has put vultures on its list of ‘critically endangered’ species.

The most common species of vultures in South Asia:

  • Long-billed vulture (Gyps indicus), also known as the Indian vulture.
  • White-backed vulture (Gyps africanus).
  • Slender-billed vulture (Gyps tenuirostris).
  • Red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvushave).
  • Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus).
About SAVE (Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction)
  • The consortium of like-minded, regional and international organizations, created to oversee and co-ordinate conservation, campaigning and fundraising activities to help the plight of south Asia’s vultures.
  • Objective: To save three critically important species from extinction through a single programme.

SAVE partners:Bombay Natural History Society, Bird Conservation Nepal, RSPB (UK), National Trust for Nature Conservation (Nepal), International Centre for Birds of Prey (UK) and Zoological Society of London.



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