All three of south Asia's Gyps vulture species are Critically Endangered. Vultures play a vital role in the ecosystem, cleaning the environment of rotting carcasses. A group of vultures can strip and animal carcass to the bone in less than half an hour - nature's very own waste disposal mechanism.
Since the early 1990s, populations of the Oriental White-backed, Long-billed and Slender-billed Vultures, have declined by 97%. in the case of the Oriental White-backed Vulture, once thought to be the most common large bird of prey in the world, the population decline reached an alarming 99.9% in the last 20 years. These declines have been quicker than that of any other wild bird, including the Dodo, and all three species face the imminent threat of extinction. The declines are the result of accidental poisoning by the drug diclofenac, widely used across south Asia to treat livestock, but causing death in vultures that feed on the carcasses of treated animals.
This SOS - Save Our Species project, implemented by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), will establish and support four Vulture Safe Zones in India. These will be large areas of 100km radius where diclofenac use will be reduced through local advocacy, awareness raising and the promotion of alternative drugs that are safe for vultures.
The overall objective of this project is to reduce the presence of diclofenac in the food supply of vultures in four Vulture Safe Zones across India. In the future, and once these areas can be declared safe for vultures, these sites will be the focus areas of vulture reintroductions from a captive breeding programme. Ultimately the goal is for vulture populations to increase and recolonise their former range across south Asia.
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