This species has been uplisted to Near Threatened on the basis that it is suspected that it will undergo a moderately rapid population decline over the next three generations owing to the impacts of diclofenac use in livestock, a drug that has caused drastic declines in other Gyps species and appears to be fatal to this species when ingested. The distribution of this species and existing efforts to reduce diclofenac use may limit the impacts.
Distribution and populationGyps himalayensis
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.
is distributed from western China
, east through the Himalayan mountain range in India
, to central China and Mongolia
. The species is regarded as common in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, China, with wintering populations also found in Yunnan province (Yang Liu in litt
. 2011). It is described as fairly common in parts of Himachal Pradesh, India (especially in Sainj Valley) (V. Jolli in litt
. 2014). This species is probably a regular winter visitor in low numbers to the plains of Rajasthan, and in 2013 there were a number of records of vagrants in southern India (Praveen J. in litt
. 2012, 2014). It is regarded as a widespread altitudinal migrant in Nepal (C. Inskipp and H. S. Baral in litt
. 2011, M. Virani in litt
. 2014). It appears to be relatively common in Omnogovi province, especially in Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park, Mongolia and some adjacent massifs (D. L. Yong in litt
The species has become an almost annual, but rare, winter visitor to Thailand
and the Thai-Malay Peninsula (D. L. Yong in litt
. 2011, C. Kasorndorkbua in litt
. 2012), and has reached the Riau islands; it also regularly occurs in Kachin state, and probably also Shan and Chin states, Myanmar
(D. L. Yong in litt
. 2011, J. C. Eames in litt
. 2012), but is probably only a vagrant or rare winter visitor to Cambodia
(J. C. Eames in litt
. 2012). Most birds recorded in Thailand have been in their first year (C. Kasorndorkbua in litt
. 2012). It is a scarce and local, but increasing, winter visitor to Bangladesh
, where all birds recorded have been immatures (P. Thompson in litt
The species's population appears to be stable in Dehradun District, Uttarakhand, India (A. P. Singh in litt
. 2014), and elsewhere in India and Nepal (M. Virani in litt
. 2014), but appears to have fluctuated in the Upper Mustang region of Nepal, where a decline in 2002-2005 was followed by a partial recovery, probably resulting from immigration from Central Asia (Acharya et al
. 2009, K. Paudel and T. Galligan in litt
. 2014).Population justification
This species's global population size has apparently not been quantified, although Ferguson-Lees and Christie (2001) suggest that a six-figure population would be realistic. It is therefore preliminarily placed in the band for 100,000-499,999 individuals, assumed to equate to c.66,000-334,000 mature individuals.Trend justification
It is suspected that this species's population will undergo a decline of 25-29% over the next three generations, owing to the expected impacts of diclofenac use in livestock.Ecology
This species inhabits mountainous areas, mostly at 1,200-4,500 m, but has been recorded up to 6,000 m (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). In winter it moves lower down, with juveniles wandering into the plains. It feeds on carrion (del Hoyo et al
. 1994) and has been noted to visit refuse tips (Praveen J. in litt
The most serious potential threat to this species is thought to be mortality caused through ingestion of diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) widely used in livestock, particularly in South Asia. This drug has caused drastic declines in three other Gyps
species in South Asia since the early 1990s, owing to kidney failure following ingestion, with clinical signs of extensive visceral gout and renal failure, and the drug also appears to be fatal in G. himalayensis
(Das et al
. 2010). The decline noted in the Upper Mustang region of Nepal in 2002-2005 was thought highly likely to be caused by diclofenac poisoning (Acharya et al
. 2009). Since diclofenac was banned in Nepal in 2006, its use has decreased markedly throughout the country (Bird Conservation Nepal, unpublished data per
K. Paudel and T. Galligan in litt
. 2014), and declines in Gyps
species may have slowed and even reversed (Prakash et al
. 2012). However, a wide range of NSAIDs, including one containing diclofenac, were found to be still available for purchase in Mustang District as of February 2012 (R. Acharya per
C. Inskipp in litt
. 2013). Elsewhere in South Asia, diclofenac use has also decreased, but it remains widely used, thus immature birds dispersing to northern India and Pakistan in winter are still at risk (C. Inskipp and H. S. Baral in litt
. 2013, K. Paudel and T. Galligan in litt
. 2014). Other potential threats include habitat degradation and a shortage of suitable nesting sites (H. Kala in litt
. 2013), as well as the ingestion of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides (Acharya et al
. 2009).Conservation Actions Underway
The reduction of diclofenac availability and use, through legislation, law enforcement, education, designation of Vulture-Safe Feeding Sites, and the promotion of alternative drugs, appears to have benefited Gyps
species in South Asia, thus the risk to G. himalayensis
is also thought to have been reduced (Prakash et al. 2012, C. Inskipp and H. S. Baral in litt. 2013, C. Bowden in litt. 2014).
Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct surveys throughout the species's range to assess the population trend. Investigate the threat posed by diclofenac, as well as the potential threats of habitat degradation and limited nest-site availability. Continue to advocate for the enforcement of diclofenac bans. Continue awareness and education campaigns to reduce diclofenac use.
Acharya, R.; Cuthberts, R.; Baral, H. S.; Shah, K. B. 2009. Rapid population declines of Himalayan Griffon Gyps himalayensis in Upper Mustang, Nepal. Bird Conservation International 19(1): 99-107.
Das, D.; Cuthbert, R.; Jakati, R. D.; Prakash, V. 2010. Diclofenac is toxic to the Himalayan Griffon Vulture Gyps himalayensis . Bird Conservation Internatnational 21: 7275.
del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1994. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Ferguson-Lees, J.; Christie, D. A. 2001. Raptors of the world. Christopher Helm, London.
IUCN. 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2012.1). Available at: http://www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 19 June 2012).
Prakash. V.; Bishwakarma, M. C.; Chaudhary, A.; Cuthbert, R.; Dave, R.; Kulkarni, M.; Kumar, S.; Paudel, K.; Ranade, S.; Shringarpure, R.; Green, R. E. 2012. The population decline of Gyps vultures in India and Nepal has slowed since veterinary use of diclofenac was banned. PLoS ONE 7(11): e49118.
Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species
View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection
Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Harding, M., Symes, A. & Taylor, J.
Baral, H., Bowden, C., Eames, J.C., Galligan, T., Inskipp, C., Jayadevan, P., Jolli, V., Kala, H., Karmacharya, D., Kasorndorkbua, C., Liu, Y., Paudel, K., Sherub, S., Singh, A., Thapa, V., Thompson, P., Virani, M. & Yong, D.
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Gyps himalayensis. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 01/10/2014.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 01/10/2014.
This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000)
Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004)
Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.
To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife
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