Posted: Aug 29, 2012 at 0549 hrs IST
But the decline has been less steep in the last two years and stands at about 11 per cent, although experts warn this may seem so partly because survey efforts have been strengthened and enumerators have been able to spot more of the winged scavengers.
“Apart from the apparent inaccuracies that may emerge from subsequent survey qualities, the latest survey estimates show the vulture population seems to be stabilising slowly, and that may be attributed to the fact that diclofenac use has gone down, people are more aware, and those are areas where we should concentrate on also. The vulture is also not a hated bird any more, and people are cutting down less trees that house them,” said Pradeep Khanna, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF).
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) blames the “anti-inflammatory veterinary drug diclofenac, used to treat domestic livestock” and which causes renal failure and visceral gout, and a “second veterinary drug, ketoprofen,” as major threats to the two Gyps vultures across India.
Gyps vultures are also known as Old World Vultures and are genetically distinct from what are called New World Vultures. A major difference between the two is that Gyps vultures exclusively depend on sight to locate food while their new world counterparts exhibit powerful olfactory senses.
In Gujarat, two kinds of Gyps vultures, the White-rumped vulture and the Long-billed vulture, are found.
Interestingly, while the population of White-rumped vultures has decreased by 27 per cent since 2010 and is currently estimated at 577 individuals, the population of Long-billed vultures has grown by 36 per cent in the same period and is estimated at 361 individuals currently.
For the first time, this year’s survey also enumerated non-Gyps vulture species found in the state, including the endangered Egyptian Vulture and the the critically endangered Red-headed (King) Vulture, finding 97 and 8 individuals of each respectively.
Kutch (with 180 White-rumped vultures), Junagadh (with 26 White-rumped vultures, 122 Long-billed vultures and 5 Red-headed vultures) and Bhavnagar (with 99 White-rumped vultures and 3 long-billed vultures) are the three districts with the highest number of vulture populations in the state. While 17 districts host vulture populations, nine districts have none.
The 2012 survey was conducted over two days in May. Besides the state Forest Department’s front-line staff, employees of the Gujarat Ecological Education and Research (GEER) Foundation, about 225 volunteers (naturalists, nature lovers and birders) were also involved.