Vultures Released for Conservation


On February 10, 20 vultures were released from Buxa Tiger Reserve in West Bengal, marking an important moment for wildlife conservation in India. The group includes 13 captive-bred Oriental white-backed vultures and seven rescued Himalayan griffons.

All 13 captive-bred vultures are sub-adults fitted with satellite tags for surveillance. The movement of these birds will be monitored as they fly around various regions in India and neighboring countries.In the 1980s, India had an estimated four crore vultures. By the late 1990s, 99% of the vulture population had been wiped out due to a non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug that was administered on cattle as a painkiller.

Vultures that scavenged on the drug-administered cattle were also ingesting the painkiller, which caused kidney failure and death. To save the three species of Indian vultures on the verge of extinction, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) banned the drug and opened four centers to breed vultures in captivity.Breeding vultures is a slow process, as it takes five years for them to mature and they lay just one egg in a year.

Moreover, it is difficult to distinguish between young and old vultures, making it challenging to procure juvenile vultures for conservation. To capture young birds, the team climbed tall trees and used trapping techniques. The vultures were fed market-bought goats after ensuring that they had no drugs in their system.The VCBC released 10 captive-bred white-backed vultures in 2021 and another 10 in 2022, both of which fared well.

They traveled to various regions in India and neighboring countries, indicating that captive-bred vultures can survive in the wild. The recent release of 20 vultures will provide more information about the safety of the environment and the availability of food in the area. Vultures are flock-loving birds, and before the grand release, the birds are acclimatized to the habitat through a soft release process.

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