With vultures facing threat in different parts of the world, the government has launched an exclusive programme for conserving these scavengers of nature in India where nine species of the bird is found.

“India has nine species of vultures and for their conservation we have initiated a recovery programme this year,” Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said on Friday on the eve of World Vulture Conservation Day.

He said diclofenac drug has been banned for veterinary purposes as vultures that consume the carcasses of animals put on that medicine die of acute kidney failure.

The number of various species found in India, particularly the Long Billed and Slender Billed, has declined by 97 per cent since 1992, prompting the government to set up breeding centres at Pinjore (Haryana), Buxa (Assam) and Raja Bhat Khawa (West Bengal).

Captive breeding centres at four zoos at Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Junagarh and Hyderabad have also been set up.

It is estimated that only 1000 Slender Billed vultures remain in the wild and their population is decreasing dramatically every year.

“Birds can only be saved from extinction through banning the retail sale of Diclofenac, promotion of the safe alternative, Meloxicam, and the capture of more birds for the breeding programme,” Neeta Shah, working with the Bombay Natural History Society for the bird’s protection said.