The results of the vulture census in the Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR) will definitely provide wildlife enthusiasts with a reason to cheer. The count in the third annual estimation exercise that concluded on Monday has registered an increase of 39 per cent over the last year's figures.
While the maximum vulture population this year stood at 1797 (as against 1340 in 2011), the minimum number was 1054 (814 last year) while the average count recorded was 1510 (1079 last year).
Vultures were found in 38 of the 39 sites earmarked for counting, as against 21 of 25 sites last year.
The PTR is home to seven vulture species — long-billed, white-backed, Egyptian, red-headed, Eurasian griffon, Himalayan griffon and cinereous. The first four are permanent residents of the park while the last three are migratory.
A significant decline was seen in the numbers of the long-billed (502 from 775) and the cinereous vulture (1 from 6) but that could be because of lack of technical expertise on the part of the enumerators, explained park officials.
97 birds not identified
“Because of the difficulty in distinguishing between the long-billed vulture and the Himalayan griffon vulture, 97 birds could only be identified as “unknown” by the observers due to lack of technical expertise,” PTR Field Director R.S. Murthy told The Hindu.
Based on a public-private partnership model, the enumeration exercise is being carried at PTR for the last three years.
This time, 110 participants from 9 States and two Union Territories, including two foreign citizens, had registered for the exercise. Finally 65 people actually participated in the event.
While the PTR is evidently a great vulture habitat with ample feeding opportunities for the avian scavengers, some areas of concern have emerged recently.
“The use of the banned diclofenac for cattle around the Patori village and the cutting of the Arjun tree, which serves as a good nesting site for the white-backed vulture, are two areas of concerns we have identified as threats to vultures. Efforts are needed to stop such activities,” Mr. Murthy said.