Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Vulture Feeding Stations/Restaurants

(Photos by one of the best bird photographers of the country - Satyendra Sharma at
Informatative feed-back by Narbir Kahlon :

It is nice to have a discussion on Vulture Restaurants on the birds-chandigarh google group. I have garnered the following from the Internet for sharing with all interested in this subject.


1. Vulture population in the Indian subcontinent of the Gyps indicus and Gyps bengalensis, gfyps tenuirostris was found to be declining in fact the vulture population in Nepal is estimated to have fallen to a mere 500 nesting pairs from at least 50,000 pairs in 1990.

2. In 2004 researchers working in Pakistan discovered that diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug used in livestock, was poisoning and killing vultures (29 July 2006, BBC).

3. Nepal started producing a new cattle drug meloxicam, which is considered a safe alternative for anti-inflammatory diclofenac, and it is intended to halt a big decline in endangered vultures. (August 04 2006, iol).

4. The use of diclofenac is prohibited in Nepal and neighboring India, but the ban is widely ignored.

5. Out of them the Gyps bengalensis is a bird found as a non common resident species of Punjab both East and west Punjab(Pakistan)

6.a special feeding centre set up by the conservation group at Kawasoti, about 100 km (60 miles) southwest of the capital, Kathmandu, is trying to ensure vultures get a chance to eat chemical-free cattle carcasses. ( Feb 10, 2007 , Reuters)

7. A vulture restaurant was established at the Oriental White-backed Vulture Gyps bengalensis colony at Toawala, in the Punjab province of Pakistan, to test the effectiveness of the technique in modifying ranging behavior and mortality at the colony.

8.Six male vultures were fitted with satellite transmitters to describe variation in movement and home-range during periods when safe food was alternately available and withheld at the vulture restaurant. There was considerable variation in individual home-range size (minimum convex polygons, MCP, of 1,824 km2 to 68,930 km2), with birds occupying smaller home-ranges centered closer to the restaurant being more successful in locating the reliable source of food. Fixes showed that 3 of the tagged vultures fed at the vulture restaurant and the home-range of each bird declined following their initial visit, with a 23–59% reduction in MCP.

9.Effectiveness Of Restraunts was measured as indicated bellow:

Mean daily mortality during provisioning was 0.072 birds per day (8 birds in 111 days), compared with 0.387 birds per day (41 birds in 106 days) during non-provisioning control periods.

10. Vultures tended to occupy greater home-ranges, cover greater distances each day and spend proportionately more time in the air during the late brooding and post-breeding seasons. Attendance at the vulture restaurant also declined during this period with fewer birds visiting less often and no tagged vultures visiting the vulture restaurant at all.


These findings indicate that vulture restaurants can reduce, but not eliminate, vulture mortality through diclofenac exposure and represent a valuable interim measure in slowing vulture population decline locally until diclofenac can be withdrawn from veterinary use.

To prevent extinction, captive breeding efforts have been initiated in India Nepal and Pakistan. This is not a new technique it has been successfuly adopted in reintroducing the Condors in America as well as raptor species like the Common buzzard in the U.K.

Here too there are problems:

1. Given the overall decline, it is not known to what extent levels of genetic diversity currently exist in the remaining populations.

2. A much larger captive population size is required than currently maintained to prevent further loss of genetic diversity. Before this species is extinct in the wild, it is crucial that additional individuals are included in the captive population.

3. Purchasing meat safe for vultures poses a problem. One has to be very careful to purchase meat that is safe to feed the birds. A veterinary doctor at the post gets the history of each animal before buying, to ascertain whether it has been vaccinated or not. They prefer to buy animals from the areas where farmers usually avoid vaccinating their cattle and goats and utilize traditional methods of treatment.

4. A large captive population is required as gestation period for attaining maturity and breeding status is very long. A single chick is normaly born so the process of creating a viable population is very slow.

Dr. Vibhu prakash who has been running the Program at Pinjore, has sucessfully bred the vultures in captivity. His dedication and knowledge on the subject is far beyond the comprehension of a birder like myself.

Last year the Pinjore Center had 8 eggs laid, a small but positive step in the right direction. Re-introduction and development of a seizeable self sustaining population with enough genetic diversity is yet a long way ahead we wish him all the best.

Haryana Govt along with BNHS at Pinjore is following a scientific approach through captive breeding. The Punjab Govt has also pitched in with a plan for establishing a Vulture Restaurant since there is a sizeable population still in existence there; these are all steps in the right direction and deserve every members support.

Vulture Restaurants slow the decline in Poppulation whereas Captive breeding with the intention to re-introduce a species helps to prevent Extinction.


Narbir Kahlon

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