Ramanagar hillock now home to 25 long-billed vultures

Ramanagar hillock now home to 25 long-billed vultures

Vulture population grows in State's only sanctuary for the birds

Ramanagar hillock now home  to 25 long-billed vultures

 Ramanagar, 50 km from here, is popular as the place where Bollywood classic ‘Sholay’ was shot. Now, it has another claim to fame: it is the only vulture sanctuary in Karnataka and has up to 25 long-billed vultures.

Vultures, which eat the flesh of dead animals, number 20-25 at the sanctuary, a significant increase from their population 8-10 eight years ago. The Karnataka Forest Department, along with ornithologists and conservationists, is making efforts to revive them since 2008 after banned drug Diclofenac was found in carcasses which vultures fed on and eventually died.

The 346.41 hectares of hillock area, part of a reserve forest, was declared a sanctuary on January 30, 2012, and chain-link fencing was done. Although no census was conducted, the department counted 20-25 hatchlings, said Ravishankar S S, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Ramanagar.

“To help breed vulture population, we are planning to provide piped borewell water to the hillock which is 200 metres high. We are planning how it can be done as we want least disturbance. Right now, there is a natural water hole on the hillock where vultures get rain water for a month,” he said. 

Eight years ago, the department had planned to create a vulture restaurant by placing carcasses on hillocks for vultures to feed on, like in Nepal and other countries, to revive its population. But that did not happen as there is no facility to check if carcasses are Diclofenac-free. Human Diclofenac is being sold illegally and used in animals too.

To protect the vulture population in Ramanagar, the Ramadeva Temple management sends people away in the evening. Still, around 100 people visit temple and sanctuary every day. In August, two persons were arrested while trying to catch hatchlings and booked under the Wildlife Protection Act. Last year, six people from Bengaluru were arrested when they were attempting to poison, kill and eat the birds, Ravishankar said. Noted ornithologist, Dr S Subramanya, who has worked extensively on vultures, said that his team found vultures flying 60-70 km to Cauvery, Muthathi, MM Hills and BR Hills in search of food.

Recently, vultures have also been sighted on Savandurga and Kanakapura hillocks, besides in Raichur and parts of Andhra Pradesh. Western Ghats too house them in significant numbers. To celebrate the growing vulture population, the department, along with local people, conservationists and ornithologists, will observe Vulture Awareness Day on Saturday. Researchers and ornithologists from India and abroad will attend a workshop and take out field visits to the sanctuary on Sunday.

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