Vulture Census


    In News

    • Nationwide census of vultures will be conducted after a gap of 6 years.
      • The last census was carried out in 2015 .
      • Organization involved in the census: Bombay Pure Historical past Society (BNHS), a wildlife analysis organisation.

    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


    • Conservation Efforts
      • Vulture Action Plan 2025
        • The Vulture Safe Zone programme is being implemented at eight different places in the country where there were extant populations of vultures, including two in Uttar Pradesh.
      • The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) and Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) also established the Vulture Conservation Breeding Programme.
      • The MoEFCC released the Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2006 with the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) banning the veterinary use of diclofenac in the same year.
      • At present, there are nine Vulture Conservation and Breeding Centres (VCBC) in India, of which three are directly administered by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).

    Pictorial representation of the IUCN status of different vulture species.

    Image courtesy: TheIndianwire                                                                                                                        


    Way Ahead

    • There is a need for the strict implementation of the Insecticide Act 1968 to regulate the use of pesticides.
    • Creating awareness among the cattle owners is the only way to prevent deliberate poisoning aimed towards eliminating problematic large carnivores.