Breeding centre set up for vultures in Chitwan

Kathmandu, September 18:

Responding to the declining population of vultures in Nepal, a breeding centre for this endangered species has been established at Kasara in Chitwan.

The centre aims to create a proper breeding ground for vultures so that they can procreate and grow their chicks in a safe environment. Presently, the centre is taking care of 14 young vultures that were rescued from the Pokhara Valley where they were nestling in unsafe habitats.

The centre has been established by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) with financial and technical assistance of Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN) and National Trust for Nature Conservation.

Of 15 different species of vultures found in Asia, Africa and Europe, eight different species are found in Nepal and four of them are listed in the World Conservation Union’s list of endangered species. White-rumped and slender-billed vultures were listed as endangered species in 2002, while the red-headed and Egyptian vultures were included on the list in 2008.

There are around 1,000 breeding pairs of Egyptian vultures, 500 pairs of white-rumped vultures and 50 pairs each of slender-billed and red-headed vultures in Nepal, according to Hem Sagar Baral, director of BCN. “The number of these species have been declining. They may extinct in the near future if initiatives are not taken on time for their conservation,” Baral added. He further added that they would rescue more vultures and rehabilitate them at the breeding centre.

One of the reasons behind the decline in the number of vultures in Nepal is Diclofenac, a

common anti-inflammatory drug used as a palliative for cattle.

When vultures feed on carcass of cattle, they ingest Diclofenac and the drug leads to kidney failure resulting to their deaths, Laxmi P Manandhar, conservation education officer at DNPWC, said. “Though the governments of Nepal and India have prohibited manufacture and use of Diclofenac, its use has not been completely stopped,” Manandhar said. “The breeding centre will be helpful in providing a safe habitat and a place for procreation for vultures,” he added. The breeding centre has two holding aviaries. A huge breeding aviary is currently under construction.

Baral pointed out the slow breeding tendency of vultures as one of the main reason behind the decline in their numbers in Nepal. “They take four to five years to become sexually mature and, unlike other birds, they lay only one egg at a time. That is why we have taken initiatives to conserve this endangered species,” Baral added.

Vultures are an important chain in ecosystem as they keep our environment clean by consuming the carcass of dead cattle. They are mostly found in the lowlands and foothills.