Researchers press for vulture conservation in Chambal valley
Round the year water availability in the perennial Chambal river, food availability due to livestock presence and safe habitat are the main reasons behind the thriving population of Long Billed vultures in the valley.jaipur Updated: Apr 09, 2018 22:18 IST
Researchers and bird watchers are pressing for conservation and monitoring of vultures in the Chambal River Valley of Kota, which has emerged as the world’s biggest breeding colony of Long Billed vultures in the world.
“Chambal river valley is one of the best habitats for vultures. However, every year around two dozen vultures die in the absence of monitoring and rescue centres,” said Professor Anil Chhangani, a vulture researcher and head of the department of environmental science, Maharaja Ganga Singh University.
Round the year water availability in the perennial Chambal river, food availability due to livestock presence and safe habitat are the main reasons behind the thriving population of Long Billed vultures in the valley.
Chhangani, who has been studying vultures for two decades, said,
“Sometimes their eggs and offspring fall from the nests and predators like fox, jackals and dogs kill them. Such untimely loss can be averted through proper monitoring and conservation. Rescue centres should be set up for saving such vultures, particularly during the breeding season,” he added.
Senior vice-president of Hadauti Naturalist Society, Abdul Haneef Zaidi said that Chambal Valley has four resident vulture species — the King vulture, Long Billed vultures, White Backed vultures and Egyptian vultures along with three migratory species.
The long-billed and white-backed vultures come under the critically endangered category of Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) Act and The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
“There were around 50 to 60 Long Billed vulture pairs in the Chambal River valley in 2003-04, which has now gone up to 150 pairs,” said Chhangani.
There are around 30 King vultures with a dozen nests on trees, 30 pairs of White Backed vultures and 600 Egyptian vultures (the least threatened species) in Kota region, he added.
A paper published in the journal Bird Conservation International in 2017, showed that there has been a drastic decline in the population of Long Billed vultures in India between 2007 and 2015.
Like tigers, vultures too need conservation, said Chhangani. “In situ plan for vulture conservation should be started as captive breeding programmes have not delivered desired results,” he said.
Chhangani said that the vulture population is growing by around 12% every year in the Chambal valley but it can be increased by another 2% to 4% if the injured vultures can be provided timely treatment.
The King vultures should also be included in schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act like the tigers and the Great Indian Bustard, said Zaidi. The King vulture population has been stable, but it needs conservation, he added.
Chhangani said that King vultures, which comprise only 4% of the total vulture population in the country, should be included in Schedule 1 as the IUCN has already included them in the critically endangered species of vultures. “We have written to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest for including king vultures in schedule 1 of WPA,” he said.
King vultures — found only in protected areas, including Ranthambhore National Park, Desert National Park in western Rajasthan — are indicator species as it feeds on freshly killed carcasses and their presence indicate predator species near their habitation.
Similarly, the white-backed vultures also need conservation as they reside near human habitations instead of protected areas and nests on trees so they are vulnerable owing to their habitation.