A team of naturalists from Bellary, including Santosh Martin, honorary wildlife warden of Bellary district; K.S. Abdul Samad of the Society for Wildlife and Nature (SWaN); and Anand Kundargi, naturalist from Siruguppa, have discovered the long-billed vulture (Gyps indicus), a critically endangered species.

Sixteen of these vultures, along with four Egyptian vultures, were sighted in a remote village bordering Bellary and Raichur districts of Karnataka.

“Our umpteen expeditions to discover the vultures for the past several years have at last yielded fruit. Every time we get a report of sighting of the vulture by the locals, with whom we are in regular touch, we used to rush and scan the entire area, only to be disappointed. But on Sunday we were lucky. Based on the information given by the locals, that they had seen a group of vultures feeding on a sheep carcass in a field, we reached the spot and were awestruck to see as many as 16 vultures sitting on a hill, an ideal habitat,” Mr. Martin told The Hindu.

The long billed vulture, closely related to the Griffon Vulture (G. fulvus), breeds mainly on hilly crags in central and peninsular India. Like other vultures, it is a scavenger, feeding mostly on carcasses. It often moves in flocks.

Mr. Martin, while expecting a healthy population of around 25 vultures in the vicinity, did not wish to disclose the actual location, apprehending a threat to the birds at this stage.

The vulture population has been on the decline and the reason is said to be poisoning caused by Diclofenac, a veterinary drug. The non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug is given to animals to reduce joint pain and poses a threat to the lives vultures consuming the carcass of the animal administered with the drug.

“The discovery of a flourishing population of vultures in north Karnataka throws a ray of hope for the conservation of the critically endangered vultures. Now it is our responsibility to conserve the bird and its habitat,” Mr. Samad said, adding that SWaN and Wildlife SOS, New Delhi, were planning to take up a research project on the distribution and ecology of vultures in north Karnataka.

Budding naturalist Sunaina Martin and Sonia Martin, a nature lover, had accompanied the team.