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Air India airlifts rescued Cinereous Vulture from Chennai to Jodhpur

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Chennai, Nov 04: A migratory vulture, rescued during Cyclone Ockhi in Tamil Nadu's Kanyakumari and taken to Jodhpur five years later, will be quarantined at Machia Safari Park before being introduced to its flock this winter.

Stranded in the Kanyakumari district in 2017, the male vulture of the Cinereous breed was brought to Jodhpur by aeroplane on Thursday evening for better atmospheric assimilation and care by experts.

Image credit: @supriyasahuias

According to officials, the vulture will be kept under the observation of experts and later tried to be accommodated with the flock of the same breed.

"We will keep this vulture under quarantine for some time as protocol. We will keep a watch on its health and if found well and able to take flight we will expose it to the flock which will come here from their native places in winter," DFO (Wildlife) Sandeep Chhalani said.

Veterinarian of Jodhpur's Machia Safari Park Gyan Prakash said western Rajasthan and adjoining areas of Gujarat are the winter destination for vultures from Eurasia and Kazakhstan.

They reach Jodhpur's Keru and Bikaner's Jodbid in flocks for their winter stay.

"Once the Cinereous vultures land here, we will expose this vulture to the flock. If it joins the flock and is accepted, we will leave him with the flock for its flight back to their native place," Prakash said.

Cinereous vultures are long-distance migrants and high-altitude flyers. They are also social animals, living in flocks.

Since the Machia Biological Park is around 2,600 km from Kanyakumari, it would take at least four to five days with multiple halts to transport the bird by road or rail. To avoid the hassle, it was decided that the bird would be transported by plane.

Accordingly, permission was obtained from the Ministry of Civil Aviation to transport the vulture by plane for the first time in the country.

A special aircraft with more cargo space and ventilation was arranged and the pilots were apprised of the precious avian cargo. During the three-hour halt at the Delhi airport, the vulture was provided water and the handler kept it calm.

The airport staff were instructed to cautiously handle the cage to prevent stressing the vulture.

Kanyakumari is not a natural destination for vultures. But this bird drifted from its flock due to Cyclone Ockhi in 2017 and reached Asaripallam in Nagercoil town of Kanyakumari district. Injured, it could not fly further.

The baby vulture was rescued by the Kanyakumari forest division, given proper veterinary care and kept in the biodiversity park in the Udhayagiri Fort.

Thanks to the efforts and care of the forest staff, the vulture recovered completely and has grown. It is now fit to be released into the wild, the Forest Department said.

The vulture was named after cyclone Ockhi.

"Considering the suitable wintering sites of Cinereous vultures in India, it was suggested that this bird be transported to Rajasthan and released," an official release in Chennai said.

Rajasthan has a number of cattle carcass dumping sites that support a large population of vultures. One such site is in Keru, 20 km from Jodhpur town.

The Keru site is ideal for the release of the captive vulture not only because of the presence of other cinereous vultures but also because of the availability of food.

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