The clean-up crew we need (On vulture conservation)

Source: The Hindu

Relevance: Importance of vultures for an ecosystem

Synopsis: Vultures play a very important role in an ecosystem by acting as its scavengers. However, their declining population has increased various concerns. Let’s have a brief look into it.


India lost more than 95% of its vulture population through the 1990s and by the mid-2000s. Today, the country requires urgent conservation efforts to save vultures from becoming extinct

About vultures
  • Vultures belong to the Accipitridae family, whose members include eagles, hawks and kites
  • They are relatively social birds with an average lifespan of 10-30 years in the wild, nest on tall trees or rocky cliffs
  • Vultures are slow breeders and so the survival of every individual is very crucial
  • They have excellent eyesight and strong sense of smell, and hence can detect the presence of dead animals from great distances
  • Vultures don’t have a voice box, and so they cannot sing. They communicate via grunts and hisses
  • Unlike other raptors, vultures have weak legs and claws (talons)
  • They do not carry food; instead, they regurgitate food and feed their young ones
  • Vultures have a highly acidic stomach that helps them digest a rotting carcass and kill disease-causing bacteria
Reason behind decline
  • Use of drug Diclofenac– Diclofenac, which relieves cattle of pain, is toxic to vultures even in small doses and causes kidney failure and death
  • Hunting– Myths about the medicinal healing powers of vultures’ body parts has led to the hunting of vultures.
  • Quarrying and blasting– of stones where vultures nest have also caused their decline
Impact of the decline
  • Inefficient clearing of carcasses– Removing vultures from the ecosystem leads to inefficient clearing of carcasses and contaminates water systems
  • Giving rise to disease-causing pathogens– If dead animals are left to rot for long durations, it may give rise to disease-causing pathogens.
Steps taken
  • India banned diclofenac for veterinary use in 2006.
  • Five States are to get vulture breeding centers under the Action Plan for Vulture Conservation for 2020-2025.
  • Vulture ‘restaurants’, which exist in some countries, which provides diclofenac-free carcasses of cattle to feed the vultures.
Must Read: Vulture conservation in India


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