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Scarcity of food, usage of chemicals: Egyptian vultures dwindling in TN

- September 2, 2022

Chennai, Sept 2 (BPNS)

Even as the Tamil Nadu government restricted the use of anti-inflammatory drugs ketoprofen and flunixin considering the adverse impact it causes to predatory birds, the Egyptian vulture population in the state is on the decline.

Arulgam, an organization that works in the field of vulture conservation said that there is no authentic breeding record in the state except for one in Krishnagiri district a few years before.

The main reason for this, according to conservationists is the lack of food for these vultures and the presence of Non- steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Diclofenac in the bodies of its prey.

While most of the farmers bury their cattle even after the local bodies, health department and state forest department have conducted awareness campaigns to leave the cattle as such in areas with less population as predatory birds depend on these carcasses.

Deworming drugs, rodenticide poisoning and chemicals released by tanneries are also other reasons for the decline in the population of Egyptian Vultures.

Farmers poison rats and these carcasses are eaten by the vultures leading to these chemicals entering the food chain and turning fatal for the bird. With the volume of tanning increasing, the industry which was using plant-based materials turned to chemical tanning including ammonia and sodium leading to the death of vultures that feed from tanneries.

A senior officer with the Tamil Nadu forest department told BPNS that they were creating an aggressive campaign among the farmers not to use chemicals to poison rats and also not to use deworming chemicals in their cattle. The department in association with the local bodies, health department, police, and local NGOs is planning a major campaign against the burial of cattle as predatory birds including Egyptian Vultures depend upon them as their food.

The forest department official told BPNS that recently two Egyptian Vultures were rescued and kept in captivity. The one in Guindy Zoo has almost recovered and is ready to fly while the one in Coimbatore Zoo is still not fit for flying.

Sources in the forest department told BPNS that the department has already given a proposal to the state government for captive breeding programme of Egyptian Vultures in the zoos.

The state forest department has also given directives to officers at the Divisional Forest Officer’s level to leave the dead bodies of elephants and other animals in the open in forest land instead of burying them. This is to felicitate the feeding of the Egyptian Vultures.

It may be noted that while the population of Egyptian Vultures in Tamil Nadu is presently under ten, states like Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Gujarat have a higher population of these predatory birds. This is due to the presence of abundant prey and nesting places.