Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Nestling Vultures: BPP and BNHS join hands

The Bombay Parsi Panchayat in collaboration with the BNHS plan to build a breeding centre for vultures at the Borivali National Park Sonu Bohra hunts for the details.

Sonu Bohra

While the Parsi community is coming to terms with their declining numbers, the burning issue now is the dwindling numbers of vultures in the city, which aid their sky burial ritual. According to a Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) survey done in 2007, there were about 11,000 white-backed vultures, 1,000 slender-billed vultures and 44,000 long-billed vultures in the country as against an estimate of approximately 40 million vultures in the early ’80s.

“The vulture population has declined by more than 99 per cent and is diminishing at the rate of more than 40 per cent annually. If precautionary measures are not implemented, they will soon be extinct,” says Dr Vibhu Prakash, deputy director and head – Vulture Conservation Breeding Programme, BNHS.

“The vulture population has declined by more than 99 per cent and is diminishing at the rate of more than 40 per cent annually. If precautionary measures are not implemented, they will soon be extinct,” says Dr Vibhu Prakash, deputy director and head – Vulture Conservation Breeding Programme, BNHS.

In the monsoons, the weak sunlight delays the burial process for which they installed solar panels at Dongarwadi also called the Towers of Silence at Malabar Hill. Now, the community is planning to build a breeding centre for vultures at the Borivali National Park.

The Bombay Parsi Panchayat (BPP) has decided to import and breed vultures. “We have been in constant discussion with the Central Government about this. Our first phase — of banning the drug Diclofenic (as explained later in this article) — was successful. The second phase consists of building the breeding centre and is yet in its planning stage,” explains Khojeste Mistree, trustee, BPP.

The project, being led by scientists at the BNHS, has seen recent success in breeding the endangered birds in conservation centres in Haryana and West Bengal. “The BPP have approached us to set up a vulture breeding centre in Mumbai. So far, there was no consensus among the community members about the same. Hence we could not set it up, although they are still in constant touch with us,” adds Dr Prakash.

The project is expected to cost about Rs 2 crore and will take about a year to start only after the government permissions have been obtained. After that, about a 100 of these almost-extinct scavengers will be brought into Mumbai and will be housed in three aviaries, two of which will be at the Towers of Silence.

Drug abuse
Dwindling numbers of vultures is to be blamed on widespread veterinary use of the drug Diclofenac. The drug is used for the treatment of sick domestic livestock throughout the Indian subcontinent.

The Indian government banned the use of the drug in March 2005. “But we have come to know that Diclofenac that is used for humans is getting filtered into veterinary market as the veterinary Diclofenac is banned. We are working with the government which has come to an agreement to package human Diclofenac in smaller doses which the veterinarian will find difficult to use,” explains Dr Prakash.
sonu.bohra@timesgroup.com

Tips to prevent extinction of vultures
* Restrict and prevent the use of Diclofenac.
* Spread awareness about vulture conservation.
* Inform BNHS, contact them on www.bnhs.org or (91-22) 22821811 or Forest Department about sick/dead vultures.
* If you spot a sick vulture, move it to a cool place and give it some water.
* Do not cut big trees that are used by vultures for perching and nesting.

Original article here