Vulture count rises by 12 per cent in MP
Additional principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) Alok Kumar said, “It is great news that the count has increased in most of the area, showing that vulture habitat is safe in Madhya Pradesh that accounts for the highest number of vultures in the country
The vulture count has found 7906 vultures in Madhya Pradesh, an increase of 864 vultures from the count done in 2016, bringing cheer to the forest department official who carried out the count on January 12. In percentage terms it has increased by a shade over 12 per cent.
Additional principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) Alok Kumar said, “It is great news that the count has increased in most of the area, showing that vulture habitat is safe in Madhya Pradesh that accounts for the highest number of vultures in the country. However there has been a decline in four of the seven tiger reserves and also in Kuno Lion project. We are looking into it,” he said
Of the seven tiger reserves, there has been a 30 per cent fall in Panna Tiger reserve, where the count fell from 811 in 2016 to 567. Kuno Lion project also recorded a fall of over 32 per cent from a count of 361 in 2016 to 242 this year. Of all the vultures found in the state, 45 per cent are from the protected areas. Among the districts, the maximum number of 658 was spotted in Raisen ( 295 in 2016) followed by 650 in Mandsaur (650 in 2016).
In the last two surveys done in 2006 we found 6999 vultures in January and 7057 in May in 893 sites. This year forest department officials and volunteers covered 1275 sites. The survey was carried out from the crack of dawn till 8 am. In winter the vultures usually leave their nest by 8 am, and only sitting vultures were counted.
Principal scientist at Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) Dr Vibhu Prakash said any rise in vulture population is welcome news and any rise over 10 per cent is exceptional. It would be crucial to see the numbers of the Indian vulture Long-Billed vulture and White Rumped vulture, both of which are in the critically endangered list. The break-up is still being compiled.
According to the 2016 survey, in Madhya Pradesh the Indian vulture Long Billed vulture forms around 47 per cent of the total population, while the White rumped vulture is round 21.6 per of the population.
According to the BHNS there were about 40 million Gyps vultures till the early 1990s, but in the last two decades over 99 per cent of the species has died and it has come down to less than one lakh.
Dr Vibhu Prakash whose pioneering study established that use of Diclofenac, a painkiller used to treat livestock, was behind the decimation of vulture population. The vultures died of renal failure on eating carcass of cattle treated with Diclofenac. Dr Prakash said that in 2006 when the drug was banned the drug was found in 10 per cent of the carcasses and it came down to 6 per cent in 2011. In Madhya Pradesh we carried out a study in the Bundelkhand region in 2018 and found them in 3 per cent of the carcasses.