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| Last Updated:: 30/03/2016

Vulture count in Trimbak range up from 5 to 100 in decade








The ban on an anti-inflammatory drug for cattle and a sustained conservation effort have given wings to the vultures in the Trimbakeshwar range, around 30km from here.

From a dwindling five long-billed vultures in the skies of the Anjaneri and Brahmagiri, visitors to the hillocks can now spot a flock of at least 100 hovering above.

The Trimbakeshwar range (Anjaneri and Karvi cha Dongar in Brahmagiri) was once home to around 500 vultures. But the number of the bird came down to only five a decade ago because of the rampant use of the killer drug Diclofenac over the years.

"The increase in the population of vultures, which form a vital component in the biodiversity, is unprecedented," honorary wildlife warden Bishwaroop Raha said.

The success story in Trimbakeshwar assumes significance particularly in the light of a similar success story scripted by the conservationists at Pinjore in Haryana, where the population of the bird has gone up to 135 from a single digit.

In Nashik, the total population has been recorded at around 120 in the last five years.

Used as an anti-inflammatory drug for cattle, Diclofenac was considered the main factor leasing to the steep decline in the number of vultures. The drug is harmless to the cattle, but fatal to the vultures that feed on the carcasses of the dead cattle. The ramifications were more than just decrease in the vulture population. The animal carcass on which these birds fed rotted in the open and created fear of diseases.

Vultures in India were on the verge of extinction in the early 2000. The government pitched in at the last minute with pressures from environmental activists to ban the drug and rescued the birds. Diclofenac was a commonly used drug by veterinarians for cattle were causing harm to the vultures.

Raha, the founder of Nature Conservation Society of Nashik who has documented the vultures, said, "This documentation is of two years of research period. But we have been counting the vultures since 2011. In 2011, it was 68 and now it is 120. It's a positive sign. In five years, the population has increased by almost 100%. We have been conducting studies on vulture with Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) since 15 years."

Government veterinary practitioner Sanjay Gaikwad, who spearheaded the awareness campaign against Diclofenac eight years ago, said the drug which was prescribed by all veterinary practitioners is not used at all in Nashik and the entire state.

"It was the government's instructions that we should not be using the drug. We conducted extensive awareness campaigns among veterinary practitioners and people in the Trimbakeshwar area as vultures nested there. During our survey and awareness campaigns we learnt from the local villagers that there were around 400-500 vultures before a decade but eight years back only 4-5 were seen. Now, the rise in its population is good news. We have not stopped our awareness campaigns," said Gaikwad. 



Pratiksha Kothule, Master of Science in Biodiversity and a member of Nature Conservation Society of Nashik, said, "Both the long-billed and white backed vultures are endangered birds. Some of these birds are also seen in Harsul region. It is likely that these birds fly to Harsul that is close by for feeding and come back to Trimbakeshwar range."


She said the long-billed ones nested in the mountains and the white-backed varieties in the forest area. The forest department has set up a vulture restaurant in 2012 and claims that more than 100 white-billed vultures frequent the area.


Chief conservator of forest (territorial) Arvind Patil said, "The population of vultures has definitely increased in Anjaneri. The principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) had given this project to us and we gave the research work to Raha, who has done an extensive study on vultures and is also the honorary wildlife warden. Vulture chicks have also been seen here, which is a positive sign."



He added that the monthly report for two years was noted by the Nature Conservation Society of Nashik and the final report will be sent to the principal chief conservator of forest, Nagpur.





Source: The Times of India