There is good news for vulture enthusiasts and bird watchers as the Panna Tiger Reserve will be initiating a three-day “vulture estimation” exercise in the reserve from 21st January onwards.

The avian scavenger is protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife protection Act, 1972.

Out of the nine vulture species found in the country—Oriental White-backed Vulture, Long billed Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Indian Griffon Vulture, Himalayan Griffon, Cinereous Vulture, Slender billed Vulture, Red Headed Vulture and Bearded Vulture or Lammergeier—the first six are found in the Panna Tiger Reserve, including the endangered White-backed Vulture and Long billed Vulture.

The vulture estimation exercise will be conducted on the 21st, 22nd and 23rd of January and having learnt a lesson from the rather ineffective counting of last year, the reserve officials plan to make it a more inclusive event this time around.

“While last year, we could only cover 40% of the area, we plan to cover the entire reserve this year with the help of technical experts and other wildlife enthusiasts,” says R.S. Murthy, Field Director, Panna Tiger Reserve.

“We will be looking for live vulture nests along with the Peregrine falcon who often feeds on vulture chicks in this region,” he says.

The reserve has good vulture population on account of several factors.

To start with, there is a good carnivore population in the reserve providing ample food for the scavengers in the form of leftovers of dead animals.

Further the reserve has three parallel cliffs along with a good number of shelves proviing excellent shelter for vultures.

But the most important factor could be the extremely infrequent use of Diclofenac by locals in and around Panna, part of the backward Bundelkhand region.

Diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug used to cure joint pain among cattle, causes renal failure in vultures which feed on dead cattle that have been administered the drug.

It has emerged as a major cause for the decline of vultures in India as well as several other parts of the world.

“As it is a backward region, the people here can't afford to take much care for their cattle which has worked out fine for the vultures that are saved from ingesting Diclofenac by eating dead cattle,” says Mr. Murthy.

Enthusiasts who wish to be a part of this exercise can find out the details by visiting the reserve's official website (www.pannatigerreserve.in, download the Vulture Estimation PDF from the home page) and apply via email or post in the prescribed format before 15th January, 2012.

Those invited will be provided with food and accommodation by the reserve throughout the three-day exercise. The invitees however will have to bear the travel expenses to and fro from Panna.