As many as 246 vultures were spotted in the first ever synchronised survey conducted along the borders of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka on February 25 and 26.
The estimation was carried out in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) and the adjoining landscape consisting of Sathyamangalam Tiger Reserve (STR) in Tamil Nadu, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary (WWS) in Kerala, Bandipur Tiger Reserve (BTR) and Nagerhole Tiger Reserve (NTR) in Karnataka. A total of 98 vultures were seen in MTR, two in STR, 52 in WWS, 73 in BTR, and 23 in NTR.
During the survey, conducted in four sessions and six hours, volunteers sighted White-rumped vultures (183), Long-billed vultures (30), Red-headed vultures (28), Egyptian vultures (3), Himalayan Griffon (1), and Cinereous vulture (1). Double counting was avoided based on the timing and direction of observation in the nearby vantage points, according to an official report.
Based on inputs from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Vulture Specialist Group, the vantage point count method was chosen as the survey methodology given the terrain’s hilly and undulating nature.
The survey area was divided into a hundred grids and one vantage point (a hilltop or the centre of an open plain that would provide a clear view of the quadrant) from each grid was selected. Ease of accessibility was also considered as a criteria for the vantage point, the report said.
The current estimates cannot be considered a sign of a healthy population, S. Bharathidasan of Arulagam, an environmental organisation, said.
Increasing wild carcass availability was one of the major steps needed to be taken for vultures to thrive, he added. Mr. Bharathidasan, however, said one new vulture nest spotted in Doddacombai in STR was a good sign.
According to him, the survey has to be conducted thrice every year to better understand the population trend in vultures.