Young World

Hatching hope

Birds of prey: The play an important role in maintaining the environmental balance. Photo: K.R. Deepak

Birds of prey: The play an important role in maintaining the environmental balance. Photo: K.R. Deepak  


You may have seen them in the movies and they would not have painted a pretty picture. But, vultures are highly essential to environmental well being.

Vultures? Ugh! You may shudder, those ugly cruel looking creatures? But, they try to eat Baloo the Bear in the movie “The Jungle Book” you may wail. So, they deserve to die, you might think.

But wait, do they really deserve to die? For, if they do, the world will face an environmental and natural problem. In India, in the early 1990s hundreds of vultures dropped dead, bringing on an ecological problem that spelt danger to the natural world. It is important to keep in mind that vultures are “birds of prey” which mean they hunt for food using their keen vision and extra keener senses. Their talons and beaks are powerful and huge and can tear the flesh of their prey with ease.

The term raptors comes from the Latin word rapare meaning to seize something with great force. Birds of prey, because of their distinct ways of preying, are considered to be on the top of the food chain and therefore need to be conserved. Vultures are carrion-eating birds of prey.

Healthy habitat

A healthy presence of birds of prey is a good indication that the habitat is a healthy one and nature is in good balance. As K.V. Thirunaranan of the NGO Nature Trust says, the presence of raptors is similar to the presence of tigers, for they see that the natural equilibrium is balanced.

He also stated that as vultures lived on tall trees, and the decline of such trees meant that the vultures lost their natural habitat. Another important factor was that vultures laid just a single egg a year and this egg had to survive the turmoil in the vultures life, for it to hatch and breed.

But in the early 1990s, vultures were found dead in rather mysterious circumstances, in and around villages in India. Researchers found that these vultures were feeding on dead carcasses of cattle in rubbish dumps, slaughter houses and in the pasture lands. The dead animals may have been given Diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory pain-relieving drug. The cattle were given this drug to reduce joint pain so that they could work longer hours. But when the vultures ate the dead cattle, they suffered kidney failure

The death of the vultures who are termed as the scavengers of the natural world resulted in the increase of rabies. In the jungles, vultures see that animals do not eat the carrion of the same species and do the “cleaning up” so that the other animals don't contract diseases from the carrion. Thus these natural scavengers need to be conserved.

There are eight vulture species in India and the Gyps Bengalensis, Gyps Indicus and Gyps Tenuriostris are critically endangered.

To conserve vultures to save nature an awareness drive was organised by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) along with other environmental organisations. \Three Vulture Conservation Breeding Centres (VCBCs) are being successfully run in India at Pinjore (Haryana), Rajabhatkhawa (West Bengal) and Rani (Assam) and one in Nepal (Chitwan).

In the South, Mudhumalai and Sathyamangalam sanctuaries are being looked into as vulture reserves. Captive-bred chicks released in the wild even though it is takes a long period to breed them, spells hope for the future of the vultures.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2019 10:36:32 AM |

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