| The carcasses of the vultures. Picture by UB Photos |
Jorhat, April 20: Seven vultures, including three critically endangered slender-billed ones, died after consuming a carcass of a cow at Lajunpathar under Kakopathar police station in Tinsukia district yesterday.
Another seven vultures, all Himalayan griffon, were rescued from the area and are currently undergoing treatment at the Wildlife Trust of India-run mobile veterinary service centre at Saikhowa in the district.
This is the largest number of vultures — whose dwindling population has raised concern in the last few years — found dead in Upper Assam in recent times.
Gunadhar Konwar, director of Evergreen Earth, an NGO based in Upper Assam, said a carcass of a cow laced with poison was found near the site from where the vultures were recovered.
“We recovered seven carcasses, out of which three are of slender-billed and the rest Himalaylan griffon, from the area. Seven other vultures were found unconscious,” Konwar said.
He said the vultures were immediately sent to the veterinary centre where the condition of two is stated to be critical.
A veterinarian at the centre told The Telegraph that the vultures were brought last afternoon and there were clear signs of poisoning. “We have administered antidotes to all the seven vultures. While the condition of five is stable now, two are still critical,” he said.
Konwar said it was not clear whether the cow carcass was laced with diclofenac, the veterinary medicine responsible for the dwindling population of vultures. 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.
Konwar said there were also rumours in the villages located near the incident site that bones of vultures are in demand and fetch a good price. “We are looking into the matter. It could be possible that miscreants sprayed poison on the cow carcass to kill vultures,” he said.
Evergreen Earth has been conducting awareness campaign in Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts for several years now regarding conservation of vultures and other wildlife.
Konwar said no awareness meetings were held in the villages near the site since there were no reports of any vulture nests in these areas.
“At Nabajyoti village, about 10km from Lajumpathar, a woman had rescued a vulture chick after it had fallen from its nest a few months back. We hand-raised the chick for about a month and released it later,” he said. The NGO had held awareness meetings at Nabajyoti village.
The Lajumpather area falls under the 30,000 square km “safe zone” selected for the release of vultures which are 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 sensitisation process in the area.
This is the second such incident in the “safe zone”. A few days earlier, carcasses of three Himalayan griffon vultures, along with three ill birds, were recovered from near a carcass at Patiagaon near the bank of the Brahmaputra here. The two ill birds were taken to the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation near Kaziranga for treatment and were released later.
Research has shown a 98 per cent decline in vulture population in Southeast Asia owing to the consumption of diclofenac-treated livestock carcasses. Himalayan griffon vultures are technically the least affected species, as 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 International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list.