In a first in India, two radio-tagged vultures released in the wild in Bengal
In a first in the country, two captive Himalayan griffon vultures fitted with transmitters to help scientists track them, were released in the wild from the Rajabhatkhawa Vulture Breeding Centre at Buxa Tiger Reserve in Alipurduar district of north Bengal on Tuesday.
“This is the first time that vultures are being released in the wild with transmitters fitted on them. In all six vultures were released, with two fitted with Platform Transmitter Terminals (PTT),” said Vibhu Prakash, principal scientist with the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), who first documented the decline in vulture numbers.
Dummy transmitters were fitted on the vultures almost a month ago and researchers and officials from the BNHS and West Bengal forest department monitored the birds’ movements at the breeding centre before they were released.
There are 86 white-backed vultures, 17 slender-billed vultures and 27 long-billed vultures at Rajabhatkhawa breeding centre which is spread over five acres. Out of these birds, 60 were born in captivity.
In July this year the Union environment and forest minister Prakash Javadekar told the Parliament that vulture population in India has declined by 99% since the 1980s.
The decline in population is primarily because of widespread use of veterinary drug diclofenac, a pain relief medication injected into cattle. The drug has been found to be extremely toxic to birds that fed on carcass.
To conserve the population of these natural scavengers, eight Vulture Conservation Breeding Centres, including the one at Rajabhatkhawa, were set up in different states.
Rajib Banerjee, forest minister of West Bengal, who was present during the release, said that if the project is successful more vultures would be released in the wild.