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Rajasthan allows vulture trapping for breeding

Written by: Staff

Jaipur, May 6 (UNI) Rajasthan has finally allowed trapping of vultures for the special vulture breeding programme being conducted by Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).

According to sources, under the centrally-sponsored programme, five white-backed and 15 long-billed vultures would be trapped in Bharatpur district, 15 from Jaisalmer and five from Alwar district.

Rajasthan was a hesitant partner in the project as it had a number of queries for BNHS. After BHNS clarifed the queries, the state government has given the go-ahead to the project.

In Rajasthan, the number of pairs of white-backed vultures breeding in Keoladeo National Park dropped from 353 in 1987-88 to 150 in 1996-97 to 25 in 97-98 and to 20 in 1998-99.

For the past three years, it is a recognised fact that the catastrophic decline in population of white-backed vulture is due to drug diclofenac, which is used as an anti-inflammatory pain killer for sick cows.

The vultures feed on the caracasses of these cows and presumably succumb to visceral gout - the deposition of uric acid crystals throughout the visceral cavity, say scientists and conservationists.

As a result, white-backed vultures population has been reduced to a few hundred and is now largely found in northern and central India. Moreover their breeding sites are not being reported on a regular basis, says bird watcher and conservationist Harshvardhan.

State Animal husbandry secretary U K Thanvi while admitting the rapid decline in population in vultures, says: ''The phasing out of diclofenac can only happen slowly and steadily. It cannot be banned suddenly.'' The state government's attitude indicates no firm decision has yet been taken to phase out the drug despite the National Board of Wildlife's deadline of September 2005.

Although the alternative drug Meloxicam - a drug similar to diclofenac, has been found to be effective in treating sick cattles and pose no significant danger to vultures, no steps have been taken to put it into use. Although circulars to this effect had been issued to all district-level veterinary doctors.


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