Conservation efforts in State likely to receive a boost

A rare sighting of a pair of juvenile Egyptian Vultures near Koonthankulam bird sanctuary in Tirunelveli has surprised naturalists and bird lovers.

The birds were sighted by J. Subbu Rajan, a member of the Association for the Conservation of Indian Raptors, near the sanctuary.

He said he was there to take pictures of birds in the sanctuary and had sighted the two birds feeding on the carcass of a cow. They were feeding on it for nearly 10 minutes before taking to the skies.

Wally Browne, a raptor specialist and trainer from the UK, who is Chief Technical Advisor for ACIR, said: “The sighting of these vultures is a significant find, considering the decline in the vulture population since the 1990s. It seems the birds sighted here should be in their first plumage. The bluish tint on the face is also an indication. Only in their sub-adult stage will they get the coloration of the adults. As these birds are juveniles, the parents should have their nesting site in the vicinity.”

He added: “ACIR is planning to do a survey to document the raptors in general and vulture population, in particular. This data will help in restoration and protection of their habitat and also have an idea of the vulture population in the wild.”

Incidentally, this was the species that was visiting the Tirukkazhukundram temple for several years. However, they have stopped visiting the hills for more than a decade now. In Tamil, this species is called as Manjal thirudi due to its bare yellow face. Its legs and feet are also pale yellow. Thought the adults are of creamy white coloration, the young ones are dark to blackish brown.

It is a known fact the vulture population has come down drastically mainly because of the extensively used veterinary non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug called Diclofenac. However, their population in the wild is stabilising slowly in the Moyar valley region. With this sighting, vulture conservation in the State will get its due priority, the naturalists added.