The Indian vulture is facing near extinction, recording a 99.9 per cent decline in population since 1992. This is the fastest rate of population decline among the 1,226 bird species that are threatened with extinction.
A global survey by the Cambridge-based Birdlife International released on Monday said the total number of white-rumped vultures found in India, Pakistan and Nepal “is not more than 1,000 couples in India”.
Till 30 years ago, the vulture population in the sub-continent was estimated at several lakhs. Now, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) estimates that the number in India is not more than 11,000. “If it continues to decline at this rate, only around 6,000 vultures will be left and finally they may become extinct,” Ashad Rehmani, director of BNHS, said.
The report blamed the extensive use of the chemical, diclofenac, as medicine for cattle – the feed for the birds – for the rapid fall in the white-rumped vulture population. Rehmani said the chemical should be banned immediately to save the vultures.
Forensic tests conducted at Bharatpur Wildlife Sanctuary, one of the nesting places for the vultures, found that 85 per cent of the birds died because of kidney failure, confirming the presence of the chemical in their bodies.
Apart from the vultures, the State of the World’s Birds 2008 report says India has 43 other species of birds that are threatened with extinction. This figure has earned India the third rank among the top 10 countries with the highest number of globally threatened bird species.
The State of the World's Birds 2008 report also pointed out that 62 per cent of Asia’s migratory bird population is either on the decline or is facing extinction.