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Vultures in India

News: National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has approved an Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2020-2025. 

About the Species: Vultures are sociable creatures and are often seen as a collective unit. Out of 23 species of vultures in the world, nine are found in India. 

Conservation Status:  

  • IUCN: 
  • White rumped vulture (Critically Endangered) 
  • Slender billed vulture (Critically Endangered) 
  • Long billed vulture (Critically Endangered) 
  • Red headed vulture (Critically Endangered) 
  • Egyptian vulture (Endangered) 
  • Himalayan Griffon (Near Threatened) 
  • Cinereous vulture (Near Threatened) 
  • Bearded vulture (Near Threatened) 
  • Griffon Vulture (Least Concern). 
  • CITES: Appendix II 
  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I 

Habitat: The preferred habitats of the Vulture are deserts, savannas and grassland near a water source. It also inhabits wooded country with game animals and livestock, up to 3,000 metres above sea level. 

Distribution: Vultures are widely distributed, but they are absent from Australia and most oceanic islands 

Characteristics:  

  • Features:  
  • Vultures are medium- to large-sized birds of prey, which are known for eating carrion (the bodies of dead animals).  
  • Heavy body, a hunched-over stance, and their feathers often appear shaggy and looser than other birds.  
  • A dull brown or black over the body.  
  • bald head and sometimes bald throat (help in regulating their body temperature) 
  • Broad wings are very broad compared to other birds helps them when they are soaring the skies searching for food.
  • Behavior: They soar in circles high above the Earth’s surface, using rising air currents to maintain their elevation. 
  • Food habits: Most have broad food habits, consuming carrion, garbage, and even excrement, but rarely do they descend upon live animals. A few occasionally take helpless prey such as lambs and tortoises or, in the case of Andean condors, newborn calves. 

Threats:  

  • Poison: Vultures feed on the deceased carcasses of many different animals, but larger herbivores such as cattle, deer, and similar animals are their most common food source. If those animals are contaminated with pesticide, herbicide, medication, or other toxins, vultures can be severely affected. 
  • Lead Poisonings 
  • Persecution 
  • Vehicle Collisions 
  • Electrocution 
  • Starvation 

Significance: 

Their habit of eating carrion is extremely beneficial to humans, as it has a considerable effect on reducing the spread of diseases, some of which can be fatal. Read on to learn about the vulture.  

Conservation Initiatives: 

  • Vulture Conservation Centre: Uttar Pradesh, Tripura, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu will get a vulture conservation and breeding centre each. 
  • Vulture Safe zone: Establishment of at least one vulture-safe zone in each state for the conservation of the remnant populations in that state. 
  • Rescue Centres: Establishment of four rescue centres, in Pinjore (Haryana), Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh), Guwahati (Assam) and Hyderabad (Telangana). There are currently no dedicated rescue centres for treating vultures. 
  • Toxic Drugs: A system to automatically remove a drug from veterinary use if it is found to be toxic to vultures with the help of the Drugs Controller General of India. 
  • Vultures Census: Coordinated nation-wide vulture counting involving forest departments, the Bombay Natural History Society, research institutes, nonprofits and members of the public.This would be for getting a more accurate estimate of the size of vulture populations in the country. 
  • Database on Threats to Vulture: A database on emerging threats to vulture conservation including collision and electrocution, unintentional poisoning. 
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