Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Vulture population may have shrunk to less than 1,000 Count Is Expected To Register A Drop Of 35 Per Cent Over Last Census Figure Of 1,431

Vulture population may have shrunk to less than 1,000
Count Is Expected To Register A Drop Of 35 Per Cent Over Last Census Figure Of 1,431

Times of India By Himanshu Kaushik

The vulture count in the state may for the first time plummet to three digits, registering a drop of over 35 per cent over the last count in 2007 that was 1,431. The good news, however, is that the city of Ahmedabad has more or less maintained its count of 270 vultures.

Sources involved in the count said that the city of Ahmedabad, specially Gujarat University, Pirana and cantonment areas, have recorded a count of 150 vultures and the remaining 80 were spread over the rest of the district. In 2007, Ahmedabad district had recorded presence of 279 vultures, which was 25 more than the 2005 census.

A conservationist, Aditya Roy, said that there was no conservation efforts in Ahmedabad as there were in Bhavnagar and Surat districts, but Ahmedabad had the best rescue perations for vultures and all injured birds were usually sent to Sakkarbagh zoo for treatment.

Interestingly for the first time, the city of Gandhinagar too has reported the count of 18 vultures. There was no presence of vultures reported from the capital in 2005 and 2007.
However, the initial trends from other part of the state were not so encouraging. The overall figure may well dip to below 1000. Sources said the count was 2,647 in 2007 and this fell to 1,431 in 2009. It was now expected to dip further.

Sources said that the initial trend were projecting a figure somewhere between 900-1,000. The areas, which have not seen major decline, were Sarbarkantha, Valsad, Junagadh, Amreli, Bhavnagar and the Dangs.

State forest department officials said that the major decline was in Kutch, which has seen a fall of over 200 per cent. Forest department officials said Kutch which had accounted for 462 birds in 2007 count may have only 250 of them, a decease of about 210 vultures.

Voluntary organisations, students take lead in preservation

Students have joined hands with volunteers to save nature's scavengers in Surat and Bhavnagar. The students not only help in creating awareness for vulture preservation but also in maintaining feeding sites.

In Mahuva, students have taken the lead in this work. Vulture cell of Bird Conservation Society of India has started an education campaign in the area, says Ruchi Dave from the org a n i s a - tion.

Students in Asarana village in Mahuva ensure that farmers do not use Diclofenac for animal treatment to do their but for the dwindling population. They also take care of a feeding site developed at the outskirts of the village.

"There are 20-odd students involved in this work. With the help of a village butcher, we collect all dead animals and bring them to the feeding site. The butcher removes the skin and leaves the remaining portion for the vultures. After three to four days, we clear the site by removing bones," said Riyani Chetan, a student.

Shenal Patel of Surat Nature Club, says, "The figure in Surat was around 80 and this year it has remained the same. We maintain a feeding site where carcasses free from use of diclofenac are dumped."
He added that students have also joined the campaign. "We created awareness in 12 schools and today these students help us. Against the expenditure of over 12 lakhs, forest department gives around Rs 1.5 lakh. A lot needs to be done to save the vultures," said Patel.

Panel to save vultures has met only once

The state government has failed to react in taking appropriate action. A volunteer associated with the vulture conservation said, "After lion poaching, the government announced a package of Rs 40 crore, but the situation is worse for vultures." He said after the 2007 figures were revealed, the government formed a vulture conservation committee comprising government officals, NGO representatives and experts. Shantilal Varu, a member of the committee, said, "A meeting was held once after the panel was formed. Since then, there has been no action. Recently, we got a circular that few members have been added."

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