Haryana to release Vultures fitted with satellite transmitters into the wild

This is the first centre of its kind in Asia and houses 226 birds of the three species, namely White-backed Vulture, Long-billed Vulture and Slender-billed Vulture.

Published: 26th March 2017 06:57 PM  |   Last Updated: 26th March 2017 06:57 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHANDIGARH: In a first for the country, the Haryana Forest Department is planning to release eight vultures bred in captivity, fitted with satellite transmitters into the wild after the Central Government approved the move.

Sources said the State forest department has deposited the required fee with the Union Ministry of Telecommunication and the frequencies on which the satellites would operate will soon be issued. They added that earlier, only wing-tags could be put on the birds for identification and one bird could be followed for 45 days.

The vulture had successfully started locating food and water and was flying very high. This was the first time that the reintroduction of vultures into the wild was successfully implemented. However, it was not possible to follow the birds further because they were not fitted with trackers.

Therefore, the Forest Department initiated the process of obtaining permission from the Department of Telecommunications, Government of India, in November 2015 to put Platform Transmitter Terminals (PTTs) on vultures.

Haryana Forest Minister, Rao Narbir Singh, wrote a demi-official letter to the Union Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change requesting him to use his office to grant permission to the Forest Department to deploy PTTs. The Department of Telecommunications asked the department to deposit a license fee and spectrum charges in February 2017, which has been done.

Vultures are natural resources of immense ecological, economic, social and religious importance, and act as natural scavengers. However, as their population started declining rapidly in the 1990s, Haryana became the first State to initiate a program for their conservation and reintroduction into the wild.

An official said the department, in collaboration with Bombay Natural History Society, established the Jatayu Conservation Breeding Centre at Pinjore in 2001 to save the three critically-endangered resident Gyps species of vultures from possible extinction.

This is the first centre of its kind in Asia and houses 226 birds of the three species, namely White-backed Vulture, Long-billed Vulture and Slender-billed Vulture. The centre has pioneered conservation breeding efforts of these species and managed to breed them for the first time ever. It has mastered the technique of double clutching and artificial incubation and managed to almost double the productivity of vultures.

The centre also helped to find the cause of the crash of India’s vulture population. It found that the veterinary drug, diclofenac, was the major reason for their dwindling numbers. Vultures get exposed to the drug while feeding on cattle carcass of cattle treated with diclofenac before death. The centre was able to convince the Government of India to ban the drug for veterinary use in 2006.

On June 3, 2016, the Union Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar, and Haryana Chief Minister, Manohar Lal Khattar initiated reintroduction of vultures into the wild from the Jatayu Conservation Breeding Centre.

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