The Kerala Forest and Wildlife department, along with its counterparts in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, is preparing to organise the first synchronised vulture survey in select regions of the Western Ghats on February 24, 25 and 26.
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“Every year the Forest departments in the three States organise separate surveys at different times to count the remaining vulture population in South India,” says Dinesh Kumar, Additional Deputy Conservator of Forest, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary. But this often results in duplications, he says.
But a tripartite coordination meeting in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in Tamil Nadu two weeks ago decided to organise the first synchronised vulture survey in the Western Ghats to avoid duplications. The survey would simultaneously be organised in the three forest divisions, including the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and the South and North forest divisions, he says.
It will be conducted after dividing the Wayanad landscape, where the bird species are frequently sighted, into 10 locations. Each of the locations will be monitored by a five-member team, comprising a vulture expert, a forest beat officer, one or two volunteers and a forest watcher, he says.
Wayand Wildlife Sanctuary
The Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, contiguous to the tiger reserves of Nagarhole and Bandipur of Karnataka and Mudumalai of Tamil Nadu, is the lone region where vultures thrive in the State. The sanctuary harbours nearly 120-150 White-rumped vultures and less than 25 Red-headed vultures. The occasional sightings of Long-billed vultures have also been reported in the sanctuary.
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Vultures faced a catastrophic population decline during the 2000s when the species was exposed to the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac used as a painkiller for cattle. South Asia had about four crore White-rumped vultures until the end of the 1990s. But the population has come down to fewer than 10,000. The reason for the survival of the Wayanad population is that they have never been exposed to the drug.