This scavenger has come back from the dead
- from Shaastra :: vol 01 issue 01 :: Jan - Feb 2022
After the ban on the veterinary use of a drug responsible for killing vultures, steps taken to save the scavengers are showing results.
Vibhu Prakash witnessed, first-hand, India's vulture population nosedive. Back in the 1990s, the young scientist was studying vultures in Rajasthan's Keoladeo National Park when he spotted scores of feeble birds with drooping necks fall off trees and die. Noting a drop of more than 95% in the park's Gyps vulture population, he began to probe the cause of death.
There were some 40 million vultures in India when Prakash was a PhD student at the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) in the 1980s. A decade later, more than 90% of them were gone. The population crash placed three of India's Gyps vulture species in the critically endangered bucket - which meant that if nothing was done, they could go extinct.
Fast forward to 2021, when ten captive-bred white-rumped vultures were released into the wild from a breeding centre in Rajabhatkhawa, West Bengal, in two batches. A few months earlier, in late 2020, the first of India's captive-born-and-bred critically endangered vultures had flown free from their enclosures in Haryana when six white-rumped vultures were released from the Jatayu Conservation Breeding Centre in Pinjore.