Uttarakhand government and local conservationists might not be tired of patting their back over their efforts to conserve vultures but a group of paratroopers who recently scaled down Himalayan heights in search of vultures have a different story to tell.
Eight members of UP Himalayan Odyssey group who were on Falconry excise as a part of paragliding mission to scale down Himalayan heights in India and Nepal have said that falcon population in Uttarakhand region is going down with a much higher rate then believed.
They informed that only a few vultures were spotted during the Himalayan Odyssey programme that took off early March and is now in its terminal phase.
“It’s a matter of concern that our pilots found much lesser number of vultures during their one-week flight over Uttarakhand land in Himalayan belt” informed Lynn Jones a team member. Jones, also a Yoga teacher with nearly a decade of experience in paragliding stated that her team members flew for nearly a week over the Himalayan region in Uttarakhand but failed to track falcons or vultures as expected. According to her odyssey, the team flew 7-8 hours every day to track vultures in areas where their population was believed to be in substantial number.
Himalayan Odyssey members further informed that paragliding and Para hawking could be more precise means of conserving vultures if taken up in true spirit. “Para hawking (paragliding with falcons on hands or separately) helps in making people aware of cause of saving the top scavenger in food chain” stated Jones adding that her group has virtually completed the odyssey and now they are in the last lap of the event.
This was the first ever exercise taken up by any group in order to track down vultures and administer medical aid to them. The paragliding team also attempted to gauge falcon population in Himalayan region. But they were surprised to see the strength of vultures in Uttarakhand portion of Himalayan region far below their expectation raising questions over success of efforts by local NGOs and state government in saving top scavengers of food chain.
Odyssey took off from Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh in March and flew over high reaches in Garhwal and Kumaon regions of Uttarakhand. This included Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath areas along with their respective streams. Team also flew through Valley of Flowers, Hemkund Saheb. Here from they entered into Nepal’s Pokara region. However the team failed to re-enter into the Indian Territory as per plan, due to bad weather. They are stuck at Pokara for the past 6-7 days. One of the aims of Himalayan Odyssey was to call public attention and those concerned for the conservation of Himalayan vultures.