Conservation of Vultures

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    Context

    • The Tamil Nadu state has formed a committee to set up an institutional framework for the effective conservation of vultures, which almost went extinct in the country at the beginning of the 21st century.

    About

    • Alarmed at the 96% decline in India’s vulture population between 1993 and 2003, the Central government put into place two action plans to protect the species at the national level.
      • the first in 2006 and the second, ongoing plan for 2020-2025.

    Vulture Population in India

    • Declining status: 
      • Number of vultures has seen a constant decline since the 1990s.
      • Between the 1990s and 2007, numbers of three presently critically-endangered species, the Oriental white-backed, long-billed and slender-billed vultures, decreased massively with 99% of the species having been wiped out.
      • The number of red-headed vultures, also critically-endangered now, declined by 91% while the Egyptian vultures by 80%.
      • The decline in vulture populations came into limelight in the mid-90s.
    • Importance of Vultures:
      • Vultures are carcass feeders & play a significant role in the natural mechanism of infection control.
        • Despite feeding on infected carcasses, vultures do not get infected. The acids in their stomach are potent enough to kill the pathogen.
      • It will clean up, and keep the ecosystem healthy.
      • The birds also prevent the contamination of water sources, especially in the wild. 
    • Causes for decline:
      • Use of Diclofenac: A veterinary nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) in 2004 found in the carcass of cattle the vultures feed on. 
        • The veterinary use of this was banned in 2008.
      • Pesticides: The presence of organochlorine pesticide, polychlorinated biphenyls, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals were also the cause of mortality.
      • Lack of Nesting Trees
      • Electrocution by power lines
      • Food Dearth and Contaminated Food

    Source: TH