Himalayan vulture bred in captivity for the first time in India 

August 03, 2023 09:48 pm | Updated 10:04 pm IST

Photo of the vulture nestling at Assam State Zoo, Guwahati.

Photo of the vulture nestling at Assam State Zoo, Guwahati. | Photo Credit: Sachin Ranade

Breeding the Gyps himalayensis atGuwahati was a daunting task as, in nature, the species breeds in snow-clad mountains

Researchers have recorded the first instance of captive breeding of the Himalayan vulture (Gyps himalayensis) in India at the Assam State Zoo, Guwahati. Categorised as ‘Near Threatened’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species, the Himalayan vulture is a common winter migrant to the Indian plains, and a resident of the high Himalayas. 

Details of the successful breeding were recently been published in a paper titled ‘Breeding of Himalayan Vulture Gyps himalayensis Hume, 1869 (Aves: Accipitriformes: Accipitridae) in the Assam State Zoo, Guwahati, Assam, India’ in the Journal of Threatened Taxa.

The paper states that the successful hatching was noted on March 14, 2022 and the nestling was shifted to the artificial brooding facility on 15 March. “During first month, the nestling was kept in the brooder made up of a plastic box (1 x 1 x ½ f) with a mat for the grip. The temperature was maintained around 30-35°C with a lamp, a water bowl and it was monitored with a thermo-hygrometer. The nestling was provided with sufficient space to move towards and away from the heat source,” the publication said.

Along with the housing for nestling, the paper points out that the food, frequency of feed, and the growth and colouration of the nestling were observed.

Sachin Ranade, lead author of the publication, said that the Himalayan vultures successfully bred at the zoo were rescued in 2011-2012 from different poisonings and accidents.

“Breeding the species in Guwahati was a daunting task as, in nature, this species breeds in snow-clad mountains. But as these birds were kept in zoo for a long time, they acclimatised to the tropical environment, and we helped them rear the young one, which led the whole process to this unique success,” Mr. Ranade said.

The two other co-authors of the paper are Jay Gore, and Ashwini Kumar, Director of the Guwahati Zoo.

Mr. Ranade, who is also in charge of the Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre (VCBC) at Rani in Assam, said that the conservation breeding of the Himalayan vulture at the Guwahati Zoo is the second such instance in the world, after France, where the species has been bred in captivity.

Four VCBCs established by Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) at Pinjore in Haryana, Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, Rani in Assam, and Rajabhatkhawa in West Bengal are involved in conservation breeding of the White-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis), Slender-billed vulture(Gyps tenuirostris), and the Indian vulture (Gyps indicus).

The unprecedented scale and speed of declines in vulture populations has left all the three resident Gyps vulture species categorised ‘Critically Endangered’. The population has been augmented over the past few years, and according to Mr. Ranade, so far, 39 White-rumped vultures from the VCBC in Haryana and West Bengal have been released in the wild with a transmitter, and they are being monitored.

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