London, Apr 30 (UNI) Asian vultures are declining faster than any bird in history, including the dodo, and would extinct within a decade, scientists have warned.
A new survey yesterday showed that the rate of decline was about 50 per cent a year with one species, the white-backed vulture, falling by 99.9 per cent since the early 1990s.
Others such as the long-billed and slender-billed vultures have been reduced to around 1,000 in the wild.
The conversationists blamed the decline on an anti-inflammatory drug used for livestock, which could poison vultures feeding on treated carcasses.
Diclofenac caused kidney failure in the birds within a few days of exposure and a single cow carcass could kill a large flock.
Researchers counted the vulture population in northern and central India between March and June last year, surveying the birds from vehicles along almost 12,000 miles of road.
The survey found that while the white-backed vulture population had been around 30 million across northern India in the early 1990s, the current number was around 11,000.
The slender-billed and the long-billed vultures, both only found in northern India, Nepal and Pakistan, have declined by about 97 per cent over the same period, the study added.
''The oriental white-backed vulture is now in dire straits with only one thousandth of the 1992 population remaining,'' the report said.
''All three species could be down to a few hundred birds or less across the whole country and thus functionally extinct in less than a decade,'' it added.
''It is imperative that diclofenac is removed completely from use in livestock without any further delay to avoid the extinction of the three vulture species,'' the researchers wrote in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society.
Though the manufacture of diclofenac for animals was banned in 2006, it is still widely available for human use.
''It's probably still being used almost as widely in animals as it was before the ban,'' said Andrew Cunningham of the Zoological Society of London, who led the survey.
Mr Cunningham said the removal of vultures from the ecosystem was having dramatic impacts on the environment. He added that vultures should be reared in captivity if they were to have any chance of a future.
''We've tried to get breeding centres in the country, there's three set up, but vultures are so rare that it's hard to catch them,'' the Guardian quoted as saying.
''In addition, the authorities in India must properly enforce the ban on diclofenac, especially given the slow reproduction cycle of the birds,'' he added.
''These birds produce one egg every year or every other year.
They're not sexually mature until they're about five years old and it takes them a couple of years of attempting to have chicks before they're able to successfully rear one,'' Mr Cunningham concluded.
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