10 captive vultures to be released today

10 captive vultures to be released today

10 captive vultures to be released today
Ten adult endangered vultures, including the Himalayan Griffon species, will be released from captivity into their natural habitat in the wild on Friday.

The release of these natural scavengers in the wild, happening for the first time in the country, is being viewed as a rare feat as it provides hope for revival of the vulture count at a time when environmentalists feared the species was nearing extinction.

The country’s first vulture conservation and breeding centre in Haryana, set up on the outskirts of the capital city of Chandigarh, has nursed ailing and frail vultures in captivity in controlled environment now for over a decade. Breeding of vultures at the Centre started some years ago, but releasing them in the open is seen as a big challenge. The successful sustained release of these vultures will eventually pave the way for more vultures to be release from captivity.

The 10 vultures will be fitted with transmitters to monitor their flight movement and daily pattern of sustenance. Much of the success of this experiment will depend upon whether or not these vultures are able to sustain on their own in the wild. Until now, these vultures in captivity have long been fed on a dedicated stream of water, tested carcasses for food and a threat-free environment inside large enclosures.

Although the risks are inherent in this transition, experts at the Pinjore Vulture Centre have made sure the transition is not abrupt, but a smooth and successful one. Over a 100 km semi-forested area spanning around the site of release has been analyzed extensively to determine possible threats, availability of food, survival determinants etc, sources said.  These big birds were shifted to other aviaries to help them acclimatise to unfamiliar surroundings.

Sources said a major challenge will be the availability of carcass as food in the open for these vultures which is free from traces of diclofenac — a commonly used pain killer that is documented to have caused the death of vultures. While the drug has been banned for veterinary use, its violation is not ruled out for treatment in animals, which is what aggravates the risk since traces of the drug remain in the carcasses on which the vultures may feed.
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