Vultures down to just 5 in Ramadevarabetta

Forest staff to set up breeding centre, bring in vultures from other centres

BENGALURU: The state forest department and conservationists have a tricky task on hand: to build a love nest for the last line of Long-Billed Vultures (LBV) in the Ramanagara Vulture Sanctuary. Efforts are on to revive their rapidly dwindling population — only five at last count — and topping the agenda is setting up a breeding centre.

The proposal was chalked out a year ago on the lines of Haryana’s Jatayu Breeding Centre, and is likely to come up in the Chikmangudi reserve forest patch, 5km from Ramanagara hillocks. Unfortunately, it is still awaiting the government’s nod.

Spread over 346 hectares, the Ramanagara Vulture Sanctuary houses an old vulture pair, a sub-adult pair and a young one. It also houses 25 European vultures. Four Himalayan and Indian Griffon vultures were also sighted during the winter.

Vulture expert Vibhu Prakash, principal scientist, Bombay Natural History Society, told TNIE that no wild vulture will be disturbed while breeding.

Nesting has failed for the past three years, because of natural reasons and human interference. Raptors like Booted Eagles disturb the natural nesting and incubation positions of the vultures, said Shashikumar B, from the Karnataka Vulture Conservation Trust.

It has also been proposed to bring vultures from other breeding centres to Karnataka. “Since only five Long-Billed Vultures remain, there is an urgent need to set up the centre. Vultures brought from Haryana for breeding will need time to acclimatise to the new environment and adjust with the existing ones,” said Shashikumar.

The breeding centre is immediately required because after breeding, the release of vultures needs three years, said Devaraj, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Ramanagara.

Chief Wildlife Warden Sanjai Mohan said the proposal will be sent to the state and central governments. The forest secretary’s office has shown interest in funding the centre, which needs Rs 270 lakh. Besides, conservation awareness needs to be created among locals.

The department is also thinking of getting at least 25 LBVs from other centres to Karnataka to revive their population. The LBV population is poor also because they lay only one egg at a time, compared to European vultures which lay two. LBVs also take five years to gain maturity to breed, until which they face life threats.

Ramadevarabetta is the first vulture sanctuary of India, and was set up to protect the last surviving LBVs.

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