Nepali farmers help endangered vultures

This video is about vultures in Nepal.

From the BBC:

Nepal’s ‘restaurant‘ for vultures

By Charles Haviland

BBC News, Nawalparasi, Nepal

As the early morning mist lifts on the farmlands at the edge of the jungle, Yam Bahadur Nepali embarks on a job which many would find difficult but which, for him, is a regular chore.

He wheels his tricycle cart to collect the carcass of an old and sick cow which died during the night. It is to be fed to the vultures, under a unique initiative to conserve the scavenging birds. It is called the “vulture restaurant”.

With some difficulty Yam Bahadur and his wife wheel the heavy beast past houses and down across wet paddy fields to the vulture feeding area.

The “restaurant” is a big grassy area surrounded by tall, fragrant sal trees. The peaceful scene is broken only by the cattle skeletons scattered around – and the vultures nestled above.

‘Kidney failure’

Nepali ornithologists have established it as a place where vultures can eat healthily.

Two of the seven vulture species in the Indian subcontinentslender-billed and white-rumped – have declined catastrophically in number and are now endangered, explained ornithologist Dhan Bahadur “DB” Chaudhary. …

Scientists recently pinpointed the cause – the drug, diclofenac.

Farmers often give it to their cows as a painkiller. But if the cows die soon afterwards, the drug is deadly for the vultures which feed on their flesh. Mr Chaudhary says they rapidly die of kidney failure and gout.

As Hem Sagar Baral, executive director of Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN) explains, Nepal and India have now banned diclofenac because it was harming the vultures. It has been replaced by a safe drug called meloxicam.

“It is also anti-inflammatory but has been tested against vultures and other birds of prey and general birds and does not cause damage to these birds,” he says.

‘Massive creature’

As Yam Bahadur skins the carcass, we go into a spacious, brand-new observation hide. With us are several of the villagers who serve as volunteers on the project committee. We watch as the vultures wait.

After half an hour we are still waiting. A stray dog starts feeding on the carcass but seems worried and keeps barking.

The birds gain confidence and 22 of them land, still just watching the dog. Nearly all are the endangered White-rumped Vultures but there is also a massive creature – the biggest, the Himalayan Griffon Vulture.

They look like a rather grotesque gathering of clergymen with their blackish coats and white “collars”. …

I tell Mr Chaudhary I think they are truly ugly animals.

“Yes, they are ugly looking, but they are really helpful for us,” he says. “See – within half an hour they finished eating all that dead animal. Only the skeleton is left. It is really helpful to clean the nature.”

Nepalis even nickname these birds “kuchikar”, meaning a broom.

The villagers on the project’s committee are engrossed by the spectacle. One is a woman farmer, Tila Devi Bhusal.

‘Preserve them’

“Traditionally we see the vulture as a very bad bird,” she says. “If it passes your house, then the house has to be purified. They can bring danger.

“But that belief is disappearing. People realise that vultures eat rotten things and we must preserve them.”

The vulture restaurant has many volunteers but only two full-time employees.

One is Yam Bahadur who looks after the cows when they are living, not only when they die. …

The other employee is Ishwari Chaudhary, the educational officer. He is spreading the vulture conservation message among villagers and in veterinary shops.

“We tell them about the new medicine, meloxicam, and how we can save the birds by using it,” he says.

The banned drug diclofenac is still being rounded up all over Nepal. Meloxicam is more expensive, but it is injected in much smaller doses which partly compensates.

The numbers of endangered vultures are rising again.

Mr Chaudhary says that before the project was opened, he used to see a maximum of 72 vultures around one carcass.

“Once we established the vulture restaurant, in five or six months we found double that number – the maximum number I have recorded is about 156, all at the same time on the same carcass.”

BCN, with support from others like Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, now wants to open more “vulture restaurants” – and scientists in India too are now showing interest in the idea.

Drugs firms told to do more to prevent vulture extinctions: here.

Nepal raises vulture awareness with a diclofenac destruction event: here.

Indian government cracks down on vulture killing drug, here.

See also here. And here.

21 endangered vultures poisoned in India: here.

“Vulture restaurant” opened in Pakistan in an effort to save Asian vultures: here.

New nestlings bring cautious hope for Asia’s Threatened vultures: here.

Vulture Restaurants: Serving Up Clean Carcasses, Free of Charge: here.

Research published by the BirdLife Partnership in the journal Biology Letters has discovered a second veterinary drug causing lethal effects in Asian vultures, adding further pressure to already beleaguered vulture populations: here.

Vultures rebound in Cambodia; only Asian country with rising population: here.

Globally extinct within 10 years: that has been the worst prediction for three species of vulture which have disappeared from huge swathes of southern Asia. But the latest exciting news from a conservation partnership in India reveals that all three species have now successfully reared young in a captive breeding centre, providing some long-term hope for these three Critically Endangered species, especially as the ultimate aspiration will be to return birds to the wild: here.

‘Endangered vultures will be back’, says Indian environment minister: here.

The Slender-billed Vulture, Gyps tenuirostris, is listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. Found in India, Bangladesh and parts of Southeast Asia, this once-common species has undergone a catastrophic decline in the last decade: here.

Vultures get satellite:Vulture Safe Zone: Saving Asia’s vultures from extinction: here.

10 thoughts on “Nepali farmers help endangered vultures

  1. Endangered species of vultures found in Gulmi

    Thursday, 18 November 2010 17:16

    Vultures of the endangered species were found in Resunga area of Gulmi distirct, said Bird Conservation, Nepal.

    Research Officer of the Bird Conservation Jyotendra Thakuri informed RSS that the white vulture and golden vulture were found in Resunga.

    Thakuri said that serious researches and conservation of birds’ habitats should be carried out for their conservation in Resunga area.

    Similarly, authorities concerned of the district have stressed on the need for launching an integrated programme for the conservation of bio-diversity and rare birds in Resunga area.


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