White-rumped vulture faces a perilous future in Nilgris’ Sigur plateau

Updated - July 03, 2023 08:13 am IST

Published - July 03, 2023 12:15 am IST - UDHAGAMANDALAM

Research done in the Sigur plateau in the Nilgiris between 2013 and 2017 has shown that the species’ population had hovered between 152 individuals in 2013 to a peak of 167 individuals in 2017. Photo: Special Arrangement

Research done in the Sigur plateau in the Nilgiris between 2013 and 2017 has shown that the species’ population had hovered between 152 individuals in 2013 to a peak of 167 individuals in 2017. Photo: Special Arrangement

 

Despite the protective measures, the future remains extremely perilous for the critically endangered white-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis) in the Sigur plateau in the Nilgiris, the last southernmost viable breeding population for the species in India.

A study has highlighted the stagnation of the population in Sigur. It was conducted by Samson Arockianathan for his doctoral thesis, ‘Studies on Population, Breeding Ecology and Conservation Threats of Critically Endangered White-rumped vulture in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve’.

Research done in Sigur between 2013 and 2017 has shown that the population had hovered between 152 individuals in 2013 to a peak of 167 individuals in 2017. Along with the late expert tracker R. Bomman, of Chemmanatham village, Mr. Samson spent the best part of four years studying the species that, along with the long-billed vulture and the Asian king vulture, inhabits the Sigur plateau.

Data from the recent synchronous vulture census in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have shown that the white-rumped vulture population remains roughly in the same range, with very few signs of a significant recovery from the last decade. The white-rumped and other vulture species in India have been decimated by the use of diclofenac and a few other Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) in cattle.

Vultures in Sigur are also becoming the unwitting victims of retaliatory poisoning of tigers and leopards. Mr. Samson’s research has also shown that 46 white-rumped vultures died between 2013 and 2017.

“Of them, autopsies could be performed on the carcasses of only eight individuals. It emerged that these eight vultures died after consuming organophosphorus (insecticides) and urea used to poison carnivores,” he said.

Anthropogenic pressures, such as cattle-grazing and poorly designed check-dams, have depleted the habitats over the last few years. Mr. Samson said the species could be wiped out from the region in the next decade unless serious protective measures were taken.

“Due to anthropogenic pressures, one of the three nesting sites of the species in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve have been abandoned by the vultures, while another prime nesting site at Jagalikadavu has been impacted severely by the check-dams along the Sigurhalla river that have restricted water flow, killing off many Terminalia arjuna trees where the vulture nest,” he said.

B. Ramakrishnan, an assistant professor in the Department of Wildlife Biology at the Government Arts College in Udhagamandalam, said the issue of check-dams influencing the vulture habitats was taken up with the Forest Department. “The Chief Wildlife Warden has said future projects in the vulture habitats would be reviewed before approval,” he said.

Mr. Samson said the future would be bleak for the species unless targeted, species-specific conservation measures were taken in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. He said there were three distinct populations in the region — Bandipur and Nagarhole, Wayanad and Mudumalai. “The vulture is a colonial species. Due to anthropogenic pressures and the degrading habitat, the species is having to split up into smaller groups across Mudumalai to survive. This will definitely have an impact on how quickly the species can recover, and also on the success of future breeding seasons,” he said. The government should consider making the buffer zone of the tiger reserve into a wildlife sanctuary for vultures so that better conservation efforts could be made, he said.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.