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Rescued Himalayan vultures script India's first captive breeding success story in Assam Zoo

With only France breeding Himalayan vultures in captivity, the achievement makes India the second country to do so.
Last Updated : 01 August 2023, 15:08 IST
Last Updated : 01 August 2023, 15:08 IST
Last Updated : 01 August 2023, 15:08 IST
Last Updated : 01 August 2023, 15:08 IST

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When flocks of Himalayan vultures were rescued from parts of Assam after poisoning incidents and accidents way back in 2011-2012, veterinarians were skeptical about the survival of the high-altitude bird species in the state's hot and humid weather.

A decade since then, most of them have not only survived, but have allowed conservationists to script India's first captive breeding success story of the Himalayan vultures inside the Assam State Zoo in Guwahati.

The "success story," which was published in the latest edition of Journal of Threatened Taxa, said the successful captive breeding was recorded in March last year inside a display aviary in the zoo, where the birds constructed a nest on the ground and laid an egg.

"The nestling was hand reared in temperature and humidity-controlled boxes and air-conditioned room. It was fed on goat meat and bone pieces and the consumption records maintained. The records of weight gain and body growth were maintained. It took about five months to fledge out," the article said.

The captive breeding was a joint project undertaken by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and the Assam forest department, and was carried out with the help of Assam State Zoo.

"Except in France, nowhere has this species been kept for breeding. So, it is the second instance in the world and first in India," Sachin Ranade, who heads the Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre, Rani, in Assam, told DH.

"Breeding it in Guwahati was a daunting task as this species breeds in snow-clad mountains only. But as the birds were kept in the zoo for a long time, they got acclimatized to the tropical environment and we helped them to rear the young one. That led the whole process to this unique success," he said.

Jay Gore and Ashwini Kumar of Assam State Zoo were also part of the team.

Himalayan vultures are a "near threatened" bird species but the immature ones are common visitors to the plains, including to Assam, in the winter. Many such birds fall prey to poisoned baits used by cattle owners to kill feral dogs and wild carnivores. The vultures were saved by the BNHS and forest staff and were kept in the zoo for display. It took five years for the birds to mature and for the start of efforts for captive breeding. Similar attempts between 2019 and 2021 did not yield success.

The BNHS has already bred the three other vulture species—the white-rumped vulture, the Indian vulture, and the slender-billed vulture—in captivity for conservation and reintroduction purposes.

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Published 01 August 2023, 15:08 IST

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