The Synchronized Vulture Survey held in Bandipur and Nagarahole along with other protected areas in south India will give a population estimation of the birds to enable the authorities to prepare an action plan to conserve them.
Described as the first such survey held in south India, the Karnataka Forest Department in association with Wildlife Conservation Foundation (WCF) Mysuru conducted the survey from February 24 to 26 as part of the synchronised vulture survey also held in Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu and Wayanad in Kerala covering the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
In Bandipur, the authorities had identified 40 points for the survey based on the frequency of sighting vultures. While the first day of the survey was reserved for briefing, the participants spent 3 hours each on the subsequent two days in field survey.
Ramesh Kumar, Director, Bandipur, said vulture sightings were reported from 24 points (out of 40) while the data from the remaining 16 points were yet to be received and tabulated. “Based on the preliminary findings from the 24 points we can say that Bandipur has a sizeable number of vulture population which are present over 70% of the park area that is spread over 912.04 sq km.
What was heartening was that different species of vultures were sighted including white-rumped vulture, red-headed vulture, and the Indian vulture, said Mr. Ramesh Kumar.
He said if the data from 16 other centres are included, the total count could increase and this was an encouraging sign. In Bandipur, there were 128 white-rumped vulture sightings, 30 red-headed vulture sightings, and 34 Indian vulture sightings. From the adjoining Nagarahole tiger reserve, there were 61 white-rumped vulture sightings, 30 red-headed vulture sightings, and 13 Indian vulture sightings.
Chances of duplication
D. Rajkumar of WCF said the earlier surveys were not jointly conducted nor were synchronised and hence there were chances of duplication of count. But the synchronised survey will give a better assessment of the population range of vultures and was taken up after a recent tripartite meeting of the park officials from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
He said it was important to have strong and sustained awareness programmes to make common people aware of the importance and conservation of vultures and the result of this survey would help prepare a Vulture Action Plan to prevent their possible extinction of these birds.
Mr. Rajkumar said conservation of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve was also important as it serves as breeding location of these critically endangered species. ‘’We from WCF further urge both central and state government to declare this as a Vulture Safe Zone as well and establish breeding centre which will facilitate further conservation of these species’’, he added.
Though common a few decades ago, the vulture population declined rapidly since the 1990s and were almost wiped out due to extensive use of diclofenac present in medicines given to livestock. The vultures feeding on the carcass of livestock suffered side-effects and their numbers declined rapidly since then.