Egyptian vultures dwindling in TN due to scarcity of food, usage of chemicals

Even as the Tamil Nadu government restricted the use of anti-inflammatory drugs ketoprofen and flunixin, considering the adverse impact they cause to predatory birds, the Egyptian vulture population in the state is on the decline.

According to Arulgam, an organisation that works for vulture conservation, there is no authentic breeding record in the state except for one in Krishnagiri district a few years back.

The main reason for dwindling vulture population, according to conservationists, is the lack of food for these vultures and the presence of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like diclofenac in the bodies of their prey.

Most of the farmers bury their cattle even after the local bodies, health department and state forest department have conducted awareness campaigns to leave the dead cattle in areas with less population as predatory birds depend on these carcasses.

Deworming drugs, rodenticide poisoning and chemicals released by tanneries are also reasons for the decline in the population of Egyptian vultures.

Farmers poison rats which are eaten by the vultures, leading to these chemicals entering the food chain and turning fatal for the birds.

With the volume of tanning increasing, the industry which earlier used plant-based materials turned to chemical tanning, including ammonia and sodium, leading to the death of vultures that feed from tanneries.

A senior forest department official told IANS that they are launching a campaign among the farmers not to use chemicals to poison rats and also not use deworming chemicals in their cattle.

The department in association with the local bodies, health department, police, and local NGOs is planning a major campaign against the burial of cattle as predatory birds, including Egyptian vultures, depend on them for food.

The official told IANS that recently two Egyptian vultures were rescued and kept in captivity. The one in Guindy Zoo has almost recovered and is ready to fly, while the one in Coimbatore Zoo is still not fit for flying.

Sources told IANS that the forest department has already submitted a proposal to the state government for captive breeding of Egyptian vultures in zoos.

The forest department has also issued instructions to leave the dead bodies of elephants and other animals in the open, instead of burying them.

It may be noted that while the population of Egyptian vultures in Tamil Nadu is presently under 10, states like Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat have a higher number of these predatory birds due to abundant prey and nesting places.

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