Vulture Survey in Tamil Nadu and Kerala
In Nilgiri, Tamil Nadu’s forest department has ordered a survey to assess whether vulture populations are rebounding. The survey is expected to take place in March.
Nilgiris boasts one of India’s largest vulture populations, featuring several species such as Oriental White-backed Vultures (Gyps bengalensis), Red-headed Vultures (Gyps janzula) and Indian Long Billed Vultures (Gyps indicus). Unfortunately, their numbers are highly threatened, being classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as Critically Endangered.
According to Sasikumar C, who led a survey conducted in Moyar region last month, the vulture population in Nilgiris is declining and Oriental White-backed Vultures have seen a 50% reduction. He attributed this shift in numbers to habitat destruction, lack of food supplies and poisoning by cattle herders.
He expressed concern over the decline of these vultures, noting they were highly endangered due to lack of conservation efforts from villagers and forest departments. As nocturnal birds, vultures often descend to feed on small mammals like rodents, rabbits, squirrels and foxes.
Sasikumar noted that the population of red-headed and Indian long-billed vultures had drastically declined, with estimates placing their total numbers at less than 100 for red-headed vulture and nearly zero for Indian long-billed vulture.
Due to a decline in their numbers, many of these birds have disappeared from the region. However, there have been isolated sightings of these creatures recently.
Experts reported spotting several of these vultures in Madhumalai Tiger Reserve near Aravalis during a survey. It’s an uncommon occurrence to spot these birds in the wild, and experts anticipate it will help with conservation efforts.
Survey results indicated that most villagers believed burning or burying animal carcasses is a beneficial practice and has no detrimental impact on food availability. It would prevent access to diclofenac-contaminated carcasses, an important source of sustenance for vultures.
This vulture population in Nilgiris is considered highly endangered, having declined by half since 1990s. To better understand their demographic and ecological status, as well as identify and address threats affecting them, this survey is being conducted.
To achieve this goal, a network of tribals, cattle owners, veterinarians, drug control department, forest department, aca- demicians and nature conservation institutions as well as social welfare organisations must be created. Doing so will enhance communication among these stakeholders and enable effective action for conserving this vulture population.