Thanks to the efforts of NGOs and State Forest Department

The population of vultures, a critically endangered species, is stabilising in the Moyar Valley in The Nilgiris North Forest Division in the State, thanks to the efforts of non-governmental organisations and the State Forest Department.

S. Bharatidasan, Director, CareEarth Arulagam, the non-governmental organisation involved in the vulture conservation in the Moyar Valley, told The Hindu that through systematic protection measures the number of the forest scavengers’ nests had increased to 50 in January this year. Similarly, the number of vultures sighted also had also gone up.

The vulture nests were found in Semmanatham, Jallikadavu and Siriyur in the Nilgiris North Forest Division.

A year ago, when the organisation began its work in the region, the local people had reported that only about 20 nests of vultures were spotted in the area.

The area is habitat to four species of vultures – Oriental White-backed, Indian, Red-headed and White Scavenger vultures.

Mr. Bharatidasan said volunteers from his organisation recorded the sighting of 105 vultures a few months ago and about 50 of them feeding on a carcass recently. Another volunteer from the organisation had sighted 130 vultures in the Moyar Valley, he said.

Jayashree Vencatesan of CareEarth said they evolved a strategy and an action plan for conserving the critically endangered vultures for in-situ conservation in the Moyar Valley region. This was being done with the support of local community, she said.

Use of diclofenac, a drug, which directly affected the vulture population, is virtually absent in the Moyar Valley, which could be one of the reasons for the stabilisation of the four species of vulture population in the region. The State Forest Department on its part to help the conservation effort, has appointed nearly half a dozen vulture watchers.

These watchers were selected from the local tribal community, who regularly monitor the nests and breeding of the forest scavengers.

The conservation efforts are funded by Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, an organisation involved in funding various wildlife conservation projects in the Western Ghats, Ms. Vencatesan said. When contacted the Forest Department sources said they identified the pockets in the Moyar Valley wherein the vulture population is found. These sites were accorded better protection, particularly during the breeding season, which begins in October when the adults start gathering the nesting materials.

During that time the males also started the courtship for a female, the authorities added.