Vulture Population in India

As per the Union Environment Minister, the population of three species of endangered resident Gyps vultures in India has fallen to just 19000 in the entire country.

What are the Gyps vultures?

The Indian vulture ( also referred to as the Gyps indicus) is a vulture which is native to India, Pakistan and Nepal. Due to a severe decline in its population, It has been listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List since 2002.

What has happened?

  • A severe decline in the population of vultures all across the country has been observed.
  • As per official figures, the population has fallen from 40 million to 19,000 in just 30 years.
  • There are three species of critically endangered resident Gyps vultures found in India white-backed vulture, long-billed vulture and slender-billed vulture. As per the latest figures, their population has fallen to be 6,000, 12,000 and 1,000, respectively.
  • These figures were obtained from the nationwide vulture surveys which are carried out by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) every four years. These surveys are sponsored by the Ministry of Environment and Forest Departments of various States since 1990.

Why this has happened?

  • The major cause of the death of the vultures was a veterinary non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug Diclofenac .
  • Diclofenac was given to cattle in pain and inflammation as a pain reliever.
  • When those animals died, the vultures, being the main scavengers, eat the corpses of the animals.
  • The insitu Diclofenac was extremely toxic to vultures and caused renal failure in them.

What the government is doing?

  • The government has established eight Vulture Conservation Breeding Centres (VCBCs) in various States.
  • The government has also upgraded the status of White-backed, Long-billed and Slender-billed vultures from Schedule IV to Schedule I of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • To save the remaining population of vultures and ease their reintroduction into the wild from breeding centers, Vulture Safe Zones are being created in the areas where there are vulture populations.

The ministry has also taken initiatives to strengthen mass education and awareness for vulture conservation in the country

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