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Ornithological Studies Presentation
Indian Vulture Crisis

by Adrian Binns 10/03

Webmaster Note 1/31/06
The following link provides an update on this problem


When I was in Rajastan in December of 2001, I was excited to see small numbers of different species of vulture, but was quickly told, "Well you should have been here a couple of years ago, they were all over the place." For as long as they could remember vultures were as common as sparrows, and performed a valuable service, being the eco-systems top scavengers, taking care of dead buffalo and sacred cows.

Over the last few years the numbers had apparently dropped drastically, and they were very concerned. 4 species belonging to the Gyps genus (Long-billed, Indian White-rumped, Himalayan Griffon and Eurasian Griffon) were particularly hard hit, and in the case of the Indian White-rumped Vulture, by as much as 95%.

As researchers tried to figure out what was causing this alarming decline, other scavengers, such as pigs, wild dogs and jackals, began to increase and take the place of vultures. This in turn has lead to contaminated water, as they are not as quick or as efficient as vultures in devouring the carcasses and bacteria is running off into the water systems, and also there has been substantial increase in rabies.

After autopsies found no connection to viruses, pesticides or poisons, they examined the food source - cattle carcasses. It was announced this summer that the likely cause of this sudden decline, was due to the cattle (Pakistan and northern India) being injected with a anti-inflammatory pain killer, known as Diclofenac, that turns out to be extremely toxic to Gyps vultures, shutting down their kidneys.

With time running out and extinction within 5 years a likely prospect, it is hoped that Diclofenac can be banned and a proposal has been made to capture 50 of each of these species and keep (and breed) them in captivity away from infected carcasses, until Diclofenac is no longer found in carcasses.

Power Point Presentation (Caution: Large Image Files)



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