In a shocking revelation the state officials of Andhra Pradesh have found that there are only five vultures left in the state and that too the ones captive at the Nehru Zoological Park, Hyderabad.
Vultures are areal scavengers whose existence is essential for the maintenance of the natural balance of nature. In 2010 it was found that Andhra Pradesh had four vultures in Srisailam forest and Adilabad carcass dumping area, according to the survey conducted by Laboratory for Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES), Hyderabad. In 2007 there were about 15-20 and before 2000 there were believed to be hundreds found in the state.
But a a scientist at LaCONES, who is part of vulture survey team said that there has been a 97 percent reduction in vulture population in the country and this has resulted in all three species of vultures found in India to becoming threatened.
The only remaining vultures, fear the scientist, are the five Oriental White-backed vultures held captive in Hyderabad zoo. The other two species are – Long billed and slender billed vultures.
Vultures rely on their food for animal carcasses and because cattle carcasses are not easily available nowadays the population has diminished say the scientist. There is also the treat of presence of Diclofenac in the carcasses. This anti-inflammatory drug has been banned from veterinary use in India but they are still available as human drugs. When animals are treated using this drug, the presence of the drug in the carcasses can lead to poising among vultures when eaten.
The Hydervad zoo is now planning to breed vultures in captivity at the zoo. The zoo authorities have already begun the process by closely monitoring the vulture behavior and a camera has been installed in their cages.
But doctors at the zoo say its challenging as the vultures are 24 years old and breeding old birds is difficult.
“We can expect breeding if CZA gets young pairs from other zoological parks or it is waste of time, money and energy here with these old zoo vultures,” asserted a zoo doctor.
Vultures have an important role in this world just like every other organism. The death of these scavangers, and inability to save them will only rebound with greater problems in the future.