VULTURES IN INDIA (Syllabus: GS Paper 3 – Env and Eco)

News-CRUX-10     24th April 2024        

Context: Recent research from the National Centre for Biological Sciences-Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (NCBS-TIFR) in Bengaluru challenges the assumption that vultures living in protected areas and feeding on wild animal carcasses are safe from diclofenac poisoning.

Vultures in India

  • 9 species: India is home to 9 species of Vulture namely the Oriental white-backed, Long-billed, Slender-billed, Himalayan, Red-headed, Egyptian, Bearded, Cinereous and the Eurasian Griffon.
  • Conservation status: Bearded, Long-billed, Slender-billed, Oriental white-backed are protected in the Schedule-1 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. 

o Rest are protected under ‘Schedule IV’.

  • IUCN Status

o Critically Endangered: Oriental White-backed Vulture, Long-billed Vulture, Slender-billed Vulture and Red-headed Vulture.

o Endangered: Egyptian Vulture.

o Near Threatened: Himalayan Vulture, Cinereous Vulture and Bearded Vulture.

o Least Concern: Eurasian Griffon.

  • Threats: Poisoning from diclofenac, Loss of Natural Habitats, Food Dearth and Contamination and Electrocution by Power lines.

Conservation Efforts by India

  • Vulture Action Plan 2020-25: The Action Plan for Vulture Conservation (APVC) in India, 2020-2025 advocates expansion of the Conservation Breeding Programme of vultures by establishing more centres in different parts of the country. 
  • Vulture Conservation and Breeding Centre: The Jatayu Conservation Breeding Centre (JCBC) is a joint project of the Haryana Forest Department and the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). It is a collaborative initiative to save the three species of vultures, the White-backed, Long-billed and Slender-billed, from looming extinction.

Dangers of Diclofenac for Vultures

  • Mode of Exposure: Vultures are exposed to the drug when they consume carcasses of animals that were treated with diclofenac shortly before death.
  • Fatal Consequences: Vultures die from kidney failure within days of exposure to diclofenac-contaminated tissues.
  • Affected Species: Diclofenac has been identified as a risk for three species of vultures in the Indian sub-continent.
  • Potential Global Impact: Diclofenac, as well as other NSAIDs, may pose a danger to five other Gyps vultures found in Asia, Europe, and Africa.