After successfully experimenting with the conservation and breeding of critically endangered three species of vultures in captivity for over 10 years, the country’s first Jatayu (vulture) centre, located in the Bir Shikargah wildlife sanctuary in nearby Pinjore area, seems all set to release two vultures (Himalayan griffons) back to the nature to examine their safety after such a long spell of captivity.
A decision in this regard was taken on Tuesday by the governing council of the state government’s vulture conservation programme, comprising top officials of the Haryana forest department and representatives from the Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB), UK; Bombay Natural History Society and different departments of the government of India.
Haryana principal secretary (forest) Amit Jha said it was decided initially to release two vultures, fitted with satellite transmitters. They would be first shifted to another aviary where they would be provided food both within and outside the aviary.
Subsequently, the birds would be given an option to go out as their food would be offered to them at a distance from the aviary and once they start feeding at distance, the food would be stopped, said Jha, adding that their movement would be regularly monitored through the satellite transmitters.
The team would also evaluate an area of 100 km from the site of pre-release for the availability of food and habitat. It will also review threat to vultures with the help of neighbouring states.
Haryana chief wildlife warden Amarinder Kaur told HT that the centre had succeeded in captive breeding of all the three critically endangered Gyps species of vultures since 2004. It today has 100 birds, which were bred in captivity, while the centre houses 225 birds, she said.
“During the current breeding season (2014-2015), 35 vulture nestlings had so far hatched and fledged, the maximum number in a year which could be possible because of the technique of double clutching and successful exchange of the first clutch nestlings which were hatched in incubators with the second clutch of eggs laid by the pairs,’’ she said and added that the nestlings of the first clutch were reared by the parents and the nestlings of the second clutch were hand-reared.
RSPB representative Chris Bowden in his address said that it would be difficult for RSPB to increase the funding, though it has earmarked some funding for the release of the birds, it expects the state and the central governments to share the funding.
It may be recalled that the vultures’ population had reduced to an alarming level during the mid1990s because of the use of drug “diclofenac” (which is extremely toxic to them even in traces) in treating cattle as the vultures – nature’s efficient scavengers - got exposed to it when they fed on the carcasses of animals which died within 72 hours of administration of the said drug.