Endangered Himalayan vulture makes a comeback in Kinnaur —

Two Himalayan Griffon Vultures in Jatayu Conservation Breeding Centre (JCBC) in Bir Shikargah in Pinjore (Haryana, India) before their release in the wild on 03 June 2016; (pix SShukla)

Two Himalayan Griffon Vultures in Jatayu Conservation Breeding Centre (JCBC) in Bir Shikargah, Pinjore (Haryana, India) before their release in the wild on 03 June 2016; (pix SShukla)

Endangered Himalayan Griffon vulture (Gyps himalayensis), also known as Himalayan vulture, seems to have made a comeback in Himachal Pradesh. Bird watchers and wildlife experts have reported sighting the endangered bird in tribal Kinnaur district. The rare raptors were spotted at a reservoir across the Baspa river in Kinnaur district’s Sangla valley during a three-day birding event in Sangla Rakcham and Chitkul valley, organised by wildlife wing of the forest department.

“It was a different experience to spot endangered Himalayan Vulture in the tribal region. Vultures had almost disappeared from this region,” said chief conservator of forest (wildlife) Shushil Kapta.

Apart from Himalayan vultures, birders said they also spotted over 60 species of birds, including White-cheeked Nuthatch, Ferruginous Pochard, Bearded Vulture, European Goldfinch, Eurasian Sparrow hawk and Red-headed Bullfinch.

The objective of the three-day birding, which commenced on October 14, was to assess presence of different species of birds at the wildlife sanctuaries in tribal Kinnaur district.

The endangered vulture

This bird used to be found in abundance in the mountainous regions of south East Asia in Nepal, India, Afghanistan and Tibetan plateau. About two decades ago bird’s population declined drastically, wiping out 90 per cent of them. After research and observations by various experts Diclofenac, a veterinary drug used to treat cattle was found to be the real culprit for killing these birds.

Around ten years back, ornithologists across the world called for monitoring population of vultures, post which Himachal’s wildlife wing undertook a statewide study and found that the vulture population had declined.

Studies found that the exploitation of cheer pine forest was also impacting the breeding of vultures that use old dried trees for roosting and surveillance. Cheer trees are used for tapping resin. Vultures use needles and branches of pines for their nests.

“Vulture population had declined sharply but after department took up initiatives, it started to show results. The government had even set up vulture restaurants (feeding stations) in different places in Kangra,” Kapta said.

“The wildlife wing also encouraged locals and forest department to protect trees around nesting sites,” said Satpal Dhiman, joint secretary, forest.

The conservation programme, initiated in 2004, focused on monitoring of nests and enforcing ban on Diclofenac through conservation education alongside other strategies by involving local communities.

The wildlife wing had mapped more than 354 nests and about 374 fledging. (Hindustan Times)

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