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Vultures released in Kaziranga

- Birds were treated at rehabilitation centre for suspected poisoning

Jorhat, April 17: Two Himalayan griffon vultures, which were poisoned at Patiagaon near the Brahmaputra bank here, were released at Kaziranga National Park after being treated at the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation.

The forest department rescued the two vultures from a paddy field a few days back along with the carcasses of three more birds.

Forest officials said the birds had consumed a cow carcass and fallen ill.

Interestingly, the area falls under the 30,000 square km “safe zone” selected for the release of vultures at present being hand-raised at the Vulture Conservation and Breeding Centre in Rani near Guwahati and experts working on the conservation programme have already began a sanitization process in the area.

A veterinarian at the rehabilitation centre said the two birds bought there were severely ill and refusing to take food.

“There were clear signs of poisoning and we provided them antidote. After three days of constant monitoring, the birds have started taking food again,” he said.

Veterinary use of diclofenac has been considered the main reason behind the dwindling population of vultures and there has been a strong protest from several quarters to ban the drug. Vultures suffer from kidney failure when they eat an animal carcass that has been administered diclofenac.

An official involved in the vulture conservation programme said efforts were being made to ensure that the use of diclofenac should be banned in the area selected for the release of vultures.

The official said Majuli has been selected as the central point of the 30,000 square km safe zone, which includes parts of Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

“We are trying to sanitise this vast area by creating awareness among the people. We are in contact with the authorities concerned not to use diclofenac on cattle, at least in the safe zone,” the official said.

The veterinarian said it was not clear whether the two vultures brought to the centre had consumed the carcass laced with diclofenac.

A forest official said on an average, 10-12 cases of vulture poisoning are reported in Assam every year.

Research has shown a 98 per cent decline in vulture population in Southeast Asia owing to the consumption of diclofenac-treated livestock carcasses. While Himalayan griffon vultures are technically the least affected species, they are protected under Schedule IV of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Other species of vultures such as the long-billed, slender-billed and white-rumped are listed as “Critically Endangered” in the IUCN Red List.

The conservation centre at Rani was set up in 2007. At present, there are about 50 vultures at the facility and most of these are adolescents collected from various parts of the state.

The centre managed to successfully carry out captive breeding of vultures about a couple of years back.

The plan to release the vultures in the safe zone is part of the second phase of vulture conservation efforts in India.

The ministry of environment and forests has set up three vulture breeding facilities at Rani, Pinjore (Haryana) and Buxa (Bengal).


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