16 birds bred in captivity through artificial incubation at BNHS' Pinjore centre

The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) has for the first time successfully bred in captivity 16 vultures through artificial incubation at its breeding centre at Pinjore, Haryana. The Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre (VCBC) has also rescued an injured white-backed bird of prey from Ahmedabad.

A nestling was successfully fledged at another BNHS Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre at Rajabhatkhawa in West Bengal this year, BHNS director Asad Rahmani said in a statement.

The 16 fledglings (ready to fly) at Pinjore include three each of the Long-billed Vulture, Slender-billed Vulture and White-backed Vulture species. In 2008-09, one Slender-billed Vulture and three White-backed Vultures grew to a flying stage. The centre now has a total of 136 vultures.

In 2009-10 three eggs of a Long-billed Vulture were incubated at the Pinjore centre for 57 days. The young ones started flying at the age of 108 days.

Drug the villain

Over the past decade nearly 99 per cent of the vultures in India have been brought to the point of extinction with a veterinary drug, Diclofenac, which leads to kidney failure.

The VCBCs in Haryana, West Bengal and Assam aim at breeding vultures in captivity and eventually releasing them into the wild when the ban on Diclofenac is effectively implemented. The three VCBCs are a joint programme of the BNHS and the Forest Department. They are funded by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), U.K. and the Darwin Initiative for the Survival of Species, U.K., and receive technical support from the National Birds of Prey Trust, U.K., and the Zoological Society of London.

Intensive effort

Vibhu Prakash, principal scientist of the VCBC, said, “The successful first attempt at artificial incubation of vulture eggs has given us hopes for increasing the breeding rate of these slow breeding species. Artificial incubation is a very intensive effort.” Special care was taken to avoid the young vultures getting attached to humans, he said.

Dr. Rahmani said the BNHS and various State governments had rescued young ones of vultures from the wild 5-6 years ago. As vultures take 4-5 years to reach the breeding stage, the BNHS hopes that more birds can be bred at its centres.

Dr. Parvez Ahmed, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden of Haryana and head of the breeding programme in the State, said the Pinjore centre reached another milestone in vulture conservation.

This centre hopes to increase reproduction of the birds through double clutching. It involves removing the first eggs laid by vultures and incubating them artificially. The vultures, known to lay eggs again in 3-4 weeks, will then be allowed to hatch the eggs themselves. This way annually two nestlings, instead of one, can be produced by a pair. This technique has been successfully experimented with many endangered species, including cranes.