What can be done?
Identifying the cause of the Asian vulture decline gives hope to the many conservationists working to save these Critically Endangered species. This includes BirdLife Partners such as the Bombay Natural History Society, Ornithological Society of Pakistan, Bird Conservation Nepal and the RSPB. Other conservation organisations working hard alongside BirdLife include the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), and the Peregrine Fund.
On a regional scale, the authorities in India, Pakistan, Nepal and other range states were involved in drawing up a resolution adopted by the World Conservation Congress at its 3rd Session in Bangkok, Thailand, from 17-25 November 2004.
Asian Vulture Population Project
The Asian Vulture Population Project, which is being co-ordinated by The Peregrine Fund, aims to rapidly disseminate information on vulture breeding sites among conservationists and vulture researchers. Data shared by contributors is published on a website as it is received, providing a close to real-time account of vulture breeding populations in the subcontinent and a source of information accessible to all. All contributors are fully acknowledged for the information that they have provided. Each record is accompanied by a reference to the contributor so that other vulture researchers will be able to obtain additional information as needed.
If you have any information on vulture breeding sites, these can be submitted by e-mail to: email@example.com
Vulture populations are already at critically low levels. Although the Indian Government has announced its support for a ban on the veterinary use of diclofenac (March 2005), this obviously needs to be implemented and properly enforced before vulture numbers can even start to recover. The ban also needs to be extended to neighbouring countries where vultures also occur.
Meloxicam - diclofenac replacement
In a report published in PLoS Biology (31/01/06), a team of scientists led by Gerry Swan of the University of Pretoria, found that the drug meloxicam was safe to vultures at the likely range of levels they would be exposed to in the wild. Meloxicam, which is similar to diclofenac in its effectiveness for treating livestock, has recently become available for veterinary use in India and could easily be used in place of diclofenac. Click here for further details.
Captive Vulture Breeding Programme
Equally important is the urgent establishment of a captive breeding programme incorporating each of the three species affected. The Vulture Care Centre at Pinjore, Haryana, operated by the Bombay Natural History Society now contains good numbers numbers of Indian and White-rumped Vultures, and received its first Slender-billed Vultures in early 2006. A further centre to house Slender-billed Vultures at Rajabhatkhawa, outside the Buxa Tiger Reserve in West Bengal, has also now been completed, receiving its first occupants in early 2006.
Other centres, in association with ZSL and WWF-Pakistan are planned in Nepal and Pakistan, respectively.
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