Nepal plans to breed vultures in captivity to save dying species


As recently as two decades ago, an estimated 50,000 nesting pairs of vultures lived in the wilds of Nepal. Today, that number may be as low as 500.

Ravaged by the effects of a poison that is used to treat inflammation in cattle, several species of the carrion-eating birds have been pushed towards the edge of extinction. Now, in a desperate effort to save them, Nepal is set to open its first breeding centre dedicated to rearing vultures that can be released into the wild.

"This is just a beginning and more pairs will be subsequently trapped and released," said Dev Ghimire, an official with Bird Conservation Nepal. "It is a very important project and needs long-term commitment."

It is not just Nepal that has seen its vulture population tumble in the past 20 years. In India and Pakistan, some estimates suggest the populations of three species of vulture have fallen by 97 per cent. In India, the situation has become so bad that in places such as Mumbai, members of the Parsee community who carry out "sky burials" at the "towers of silence", in which vultures pick clean the bodies of the dead, have had to find alternative methods. In some cases, Parsee communities – Zoroastrians who do not permit either burial or cremation – have tried using magnifying lenses to increase the sun's force to incinerate the remains because there are insufficientbirds to perform the task. Those solar panels have only been partly successful and have caused widespread controversy.

Across the sub-continent, the depletion of the vultures has been caused by diclofenac, a drug used to treat inflammation in cows and buffaloes. Harmless to the animals it is used to treat, it causes kidney failure in the birds that feed on the carrion of the cattle. For several years, international bird groups have campaigned for it to be banned – a move that India took in May 2006, followed by Nepal and Pakistan several months later.

Bird Conservation Nepal has already established several feeding areas across the country for vultures, using the carcasses of toxin-free cattle. "The vultures' restaurants are attracting the birds from distant places raising the hope that the uncontaminated diet would help recover the South Asian birds under critical decline," said the group.

Mr Ghimire told Reuters that the group had been looking to India for help. "We can use the techniques and expertise applied by conservationists in India which also has vulture breeding centres," he said. "But it will take at least three or four years before we can expect to release the young birds bred at the centre into the wild."

The group's plan is to capture at least 10 breeding pairs for both of the two species that are critically endangered in Nepal – the white-rumped and slender-billed vultures. Initially, they will be kept in two aviaries in Chitwan National Park,50 miles from Kathmandu. They will be caught from March during the breeding season when it is easier to trap them, said Mr Ghimire.

Nepal's government's stepped in to prohibit the use and production of diclofenac after veterinary companies produced an alternative, meloxicam, that was just as cheap. Campaigners say that promoting the use of meloxicam by farmers in key vulture areas across the country remains a vital task if the birds are to have a chance of recovering their former numbers.

Britain's Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds has been involved in projects to inform farmers of the alternative.

Suggested Topics
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little