Nepal’s ornithologists and bird conservationists, who had worked so hard to save vultures are still in a state of shock.
“It is a tremendous loss for so many of the endangered vultures to be killed in one place at one time,” says Ankit Bilas Joshi of the National Bird Conservation Association. He says that despite the Diclofenac ban, other non-steroidal drugs toxic to vultures and eagles are still being used to treat livestock.
Vultures get a bad rap, and are culturally considered repulsive for feeding on carcasses, which has added to the challenge in their conservation. But this negative perception does a disservice to their contribution to scavenging, in balancing the ecosystem and the food chain.
By consuming carrion, raptors reduce the spread of disease among humans and cattle alike. When vultures nearly became extinct in the Subcontinent animal carcasses lay rotting in the fields and jungles, spreading pathogens.
But the work must go on, and Nepal is developing the world’s first vulture sanctuary, stretching over 30,000sq km. Unlike other protected areas, it will not have a defined perimeter, but it will be free of Diclofenac and other chemicals.
In 2008, the Nepal government also set up a vulture conservation and breeding centre in Kasara in the Chitwan National Park. A ‘Vulture Conservation Action Plan 2009-2013’ has been approved and implemented followed by a second action plan 2015-2019. Under the campaign, 74 districts (except Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur) have been declared Diclofenac free.