Halt of diclofenac use boosts vulture number
By Binu Shrestha
Kathmandu, June 15: The population of critically endangered White-rumped and Slender-billed vulture is increasing since 2014 after veterinarians and livestock owners stopped using the drug, diclofenac.
Sixty-eight districts have already been declared as vet diclofenac-free by the government authority and stakeholders. And recently, Terhathum and Sankhuwasabha districts were declared as vet diclofenac-free districts.
“The diclofenac-free campaign started in 2010 from Dang district. Now, finally we succeeded to cover 70 districts,” said Krishna Prasad Bhusal, Vulture Conservation Programme Officer of the Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN).
The next aim is to ban diclofenac use in the districts of the Kathmandu Valley and other districts, he said.”
According to a survey report of the Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN), 14 years of data analysis shows that population of the critically endangered Gyps species vultures has recovered since 2014. Population of these birds had declined between 2002 and 2012.
Number of these vultures declined to 43 in 2012 from 205 in 2002. The declining process remained stable in 2012 and 2013. Thereafter, its population moved upward from 2014 and reached 110 in 2018.
The growth in its population was the result of integrated approach of vulture recovery programme that included advocacy, education, monitoring, research, supplementary feeding and site protection to help implement Nepal’s Vulture Conservation Action Plan, said Bhusal.
He further said that BCN began monitoring vulture species throughout the nation after the vulture population began declining. “Vulture population is gradually increasing with the ban imposed on the use of diclofenac. Effective implementation of Vulture Safe Zone programme, generating awareness on the threat to vulture from veterinary diclofenac and supply of free food in the vulture restaurants contributed to the growth in the population of vulture,” he said.
Dr. Hem Sagar Baral, bird specialist said that critically endangered white-rumped and slender-billed vulture population was now at recovering process.
“It can also be said their population has remained stable,” he added.
He said it was not possible to recover its population of the 1980s and 90s. In recent years, only partial recovery has been made,” Dr. Baral added.
The report of BCN shows that vultures are no longer dying. Their number is being supplemented with arrivals from other countries.
The objective of establishing the Vulture Conservation Breeding Center was to preserve and increase the number of the critically- endangered white-rumped vultures. Currently, there are 38 white-rumped vultures at the centre.
Six critically endangered white-rumped vultures were released on November 9, 2017 and 12 on November 2018 by the centre.
A survey located 356 active nests, 269 success nests of the white-rumped vultures in 2016 whereas in 2017 the number of active nests increased to 361 but success nests remained constant at 269.
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