Vultures in India heading for extinction?
A report by Bob Risebrough, using data from a paper in a recently published paper by V. Prakesh from the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, gives more information about the continuing massive decline in vulture numbers in India (see World Birdwatch, December 1998, p. 6).
The paper finds evidence that indicates a disease factor, presumed to be a virus, is responsible for the death of the vultures and that once afflicted, the birds are apparently unable to recover. Autopsies carried out on two birds found dead or dying have found that the liver and other internal organs were covered with whitish crystals assumed to be uric acid, deposits of which cause gout in humans.
The report makes the following stark prediction. "The situation in India regarding the White-backed Vulture Gyps bengalensis and the Long-billed Vulture Gyps indicus must now be regarded as critical. Extinction of either or both species, which were common throughout India until as recently as only three years ago, appears to be inevitable unless the factors responsible for their population decline, which now exceeds 95% in at least some portions of their range, can be identified and corrected."
Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 96 (3), 1999
World Birdwatch 22(1)