Page 3 - Saving Vultures in India - Through Conservation Breeding Efforts
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EDITORIAL

Vultures are a critical link in the ecosystem
and in their absence, population of other
scavengers, such as feral dogs and rats is
rising. This can increase the incidence of
dangerous and potentially fatal diseases

such as rabies.

From time immemorial, vultures have been silently performing a very important
task in the cycle of nature as its finest scavengers.They feed on the carcasses of
dead animals, helping lessening the chance of carcass-borne disease outbreaks.
But today, they have become one of most endangered bird species.Widespread
use of a drug (diclofenac) to treat livestock has actually ended up poisoning the
vultures.This has not only resulted in lesser sighting of this glorious bird in our
skies, but has also endangered health and cleanliness in the countryside and
caused unnatural changes in the natural food chain.Vultures are a critical link in the
ecosystem and in their absence, population of other scavengers, such as feral dogs
and rats is rising.This can increase the incidence of dangerous and potentially fatal
diseases such as rabies.

This month, our cover story titled,‘Saving Vultures in India through Conservation
Breeding Efforts’ highlights that inspite of the risk to the conservation status of
vultures, all is not lost as steps are being taken in the country to try and save these
birds from extinction. A recently published research says that despite the low
population of all of the three endangered vulture species, there is stability in the
population of the white-rumped vulture that was previously on a rapid decline;
this may have reversed due to the ban on veterinary use of diclofenac in India since
2006. Initiatives by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) such as the creation
of the vulture safe zones (VSZs) in many states in India have led to stabilization of
vulture population in designated VSZs in Gujarat and Jharkhand and increase in
vulture population in the safe zones in Uttarakhand in recent years.

Our cover story also discusses that the Jatayu Conservation Breeding Centre was
started by the BNHS in Haryana that undertakes research on vultures, their habitat,
the causes of their declining numbers, and evolves the approach to protect them. It
was converted into a breeding–conservation centre in 2004 which focusses mainly
on the three species of vultures, the white-backed, long-billed, and slender-billed,
which are facing the danger of extinction.The work they do is crucial for this
bird’s survival.

As the theme for World Water Day 2018 (March 22) is ‘Nature for Water’—
exploring nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st
century, the feature article this month highlights the disturbing scenario of water
scarcity in India as rapid urbanization and industrialization are expected to take a
toll on the water availability in India in the future. It also discusses some noteworthy
initiatives by the government and corporate companies related to nature-based
solutions to water conservation in India.

Ajay Mathur
Director General, TERI

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