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Rewilding of Vultures in Tiger Reserves

  • Context (TOI): Under the vulture reintroduction programme by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), 20 vultures were soft-released into the Tadoba and Pench tiger reserves in Maharashtra.
  • More vultures from the white-rumped, slender-billed, and long-billed vultures bred at various BNHS centres will be rewilded in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan.
  • BNHS undertook the strategy of reintroducing vultures in tiger habitats with a large prey base because it will help sustain the vultures by allowing them to recycle the remains of prey hunted by tigers, leopards, and wild dogs and complete vital carbon and nitrogen cycles.
  • BNHS is one of the largest non-governmental organisations in India engaged in conservation and biodiversity research. It was founded in 1883.

Reasons Behind the Massive Reduction in Vulture Population


  • Diclofenac’, a veterinary drug used to treat cattle, caused mass kidney failure in vultures after they scavenged treated livestock.
  • The massive vulture population crash in the ’80s and ’90s caused by this led the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to declare the Indian vulture “only one step away from total extinction.” By 2007, 99% of vultures in India had disappeared.
  • Following the findings, the GoI had banned the drug’s veterinary use in 2006.

Other Reasons

  • Habitat loss
  • Starvation due to diminished forage: Almost no farmer leaves their dead cattle outside anymore but buries them because of which no food is available for vultures in farmland areas.

Consequences of Depopulation of Vulturesphoto

  • Vultures played an important role as natural sanitation crew. Their depopulation results in:
    • The carcasses rot in village fields, leading to contaminated drinking water.
    • Explosion of rats and wild dogs, which lead to the spread of diseases.
    • A vulture’s metabolism is a true “dead-end” for pathogens. However, the new scavengers (dogs and rats) become carriers of the pathogens.

BNHS’s Efforts to Conserve India’s Vulture

  • About a decade ago, BNHS and the forest departments of Maharashtra, MP, Assam, WB, and Haryana began breeding vultures, gaining international attention at the first World Species Congress.
  • BNHS teams conduct pharmacy surveys and carcass sampling, educate cattle owners, and sensitise villagers about vulture nesting colonies.
  • BNHS is also raising funds to create ‘Vulture Safe Zones’ in UP, MP, and Assam, within a 100 km radius of the release sites, to keep vultures safe beyond the tiger reserves.
  • They will GPS or satellite-tag the rewilded vultures to track their movements.
  • The World Species Congress, hosted by the IUCN and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, was a virtual gathering of government and environmental agencies, conservationists, wildlife groups, and students to chart a “coordinated map of key actions” for species recovery.

Vultures Found in India

  • Nine species of vultures are found in India.
  • Six species are resident: white-rumped vulture, Indian vulture, slender-billed vulture, red-headed vulture, bearded vulture, and Egyptian vulture.
  • Three species are migratory: cinereous vulture, griffon vulture, and Himalayan vulture.

Resident Vulture Species of India


White-Rumped Vulture
Indian Vulture/Long-billed vulture
Slender-Billed Vulture
Red-Headed Vulture/Asian King Vulture/Indian Black Vulture/Pondicherry Vulture
Bearded Vulture
  • It is found in high mountains of south Europe, East Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Tibet, and the Caucasus.
  • IUCN: NT | CITES: Appendix II | WPA: Schedule I
Egyptian Vulture/Scavenger Vulture/Pharaoh’s Chicken
  • It is widely distributed from the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa to India.
  • IUCN: EN | CITES: Appendix II | WPA: Schedule I

Migratory Vulture Species of India

Cinereous Vulture/Black Vulture/Monk Vulture
Eurasian Griffon Vulture
Himalayan Griffon Vulture
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