'Put vulture restaurants on the tourist map'

Vulture restaurants need to be linked with tourism

Kathmandu, January 20

Participants of a workshop on sustaining vulture safe feeding sites have stressed on promoting vulture restaurants by linking them with tourism.

Speaking at the workshop, which was organised by Bird Conservation Nepal here yesterday, Krishna Aryal, member of Nepal Tourism Board, said NTB would prioritise vulture conservation practices and develop vulture restaurants as tourist sites.

Similarly, Chief Executive Officer of BCN Dr Narendraman Babu Pradhan said all vulture restaurants needed to be linked with tourism for sustainability. He said though vulture conservation efforts made so far in Nepal were appreciable, vulture sites had yet to be developed as tourist spots. “Vulture restaurants need to be put on the tourist map,” he added.

Krishna Prasad Bhusal, vulture conservation officer at BCN, Krishna Prasad Bhusal, shed light on the ongoing vulture conservation efforts in Nepal and challenges. Seven vulture safe feeding sites, popularly called Jatayu restaurants, are in operation in Nepal where safe food is provided to vultures. These restaurants collect old and unproductive cows from villages and keep them at least for seven days to ensure that they are diclofenac-free. The cows after their natural death are then fed to vultures.

Vulture restaurants in Kawasoti (Nawalparasi), Gaidatal (Rupandehi), Ghachowk (Kaski), Lalmatiya and Bijauri (Dang), Khutiya (Kailali) and Ramdhuni (Sunsari) have been a major attraction to local and international tourists.

White-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis), Himalayan vulture (Gyps himalayensis), white-backed vulture (Gyps africanus), Rüppell’s vulture (Gyps rueppellii), Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus), Indian vulture (Gyps indicus), slender-billed vulture (Gyps tenuirostris) and cape vulture (Gyps coprothere) are found in Nepal.

According to bird experts, vultures play a highly important ecological role through rapid consumption of animal carcasses. They also have an important cultural role in the consumption of human dead bodies in sky burials within Nepal and Tibet.

Out of nine species of vultures, five species of vultures in Asia are in grave danger of extinction across the Indian subcontinent. Populations of white-rumped Gyps bengalensis, long-billed G indicus and slender-billed G tenuirostris have declined by more than 99 per cent in India and Pakistan and annual rates of decline appear to be increasing.

Two more species of vultures, red-headed vulture and Egyptian vulture have rapidly declined in recent years. Due to these declines, all five species are now listed threatened by IUCN.