BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, March 13: Over 150 vultures have succumbed to deliberate poisoning in the State this year alone, with the trend sending alarm bells ringing in conservation circles. Worried environmentalists are now calling upon the people to desist from reckless activities which are taking a toll on this dying group of scavenger birds.
In the latest such incident, 31 vultures were killed in a poisoning case at Chengeligaon of Dangori area under Doomdooma forest division (Talap range). However, activists of the Intertiol Fund for Animal Welfare and Wildlife Trust of India (IFAW-WTI) have maged to rescue nine vultures.
The surviving vultures included seven Himalayan griffons, one slender bill and one white-rumped vulture. Out of these nine vultures, eight were rescued from Chengeligaon and one from Kakopothar area of Tinsukia district.
The surviving vultures were then put under the observation of Eastern Assam MVS unit led by Dr Samshul Ali and cared for by animal keeper Hemanta Das at the -Barmura campus in Saikhowa forest range. The vultures gradually recovered, responding well to treatment. They were released back to the wild today.
“The trend of poisoning vultures in Assam is very worrying. In fact, the vultures are not the targets, but eventually they are falling prey. Over the last few days, I have been told, more than 150 vultures have been killed. This needs to be checked and public awareness created,” said Dr Asad Rahmani, Director, Bombay tural History Society (BNHS).
The scavenger birds killed this year include 102 Himalayan griffons, 12 critically endangered slender-billed and 20 white-rumped vultures. Only 20 stricken vultures could be rescued.
In the first 13 days of ongoing March alone, 77 vultures have died of poisoning, coming as a setback to conservation efforts. In January this year, conservationists were traumatized at the news of the death of 50 vultures at Tengapani village in Sivasagar. On February 17, IFAW-WTI run CWRC released a vulture rescued from Tengapani village.
Despite drastic decline in vulture populations (slender billed and white rumped) in the 1990s that has pushed them dangerously towards extinction, vultures continue to fall victim to human callousness even today.
Although efforts are being made by governments as well as non-government institutions to curb this downslide, reckless activities of people residing within home range of vultures, continue to take a toll on this dying group of scavenger birds across India.
“The practice of poisoning birds and mammals is commonly reported from Assam and though it had been on a decline in the last few years, this year it seems to have revived again. Since this is a largely agriculturally domint landscape, there is no dearth of pesticides which are used to poison carcasses. It is disheartening to see that despite the State having the largest network of NGOs working for conservation, there has been little or no change in people’s perception about the consequences of poisoning,” said Dr NVK Ashraf, Chief Veteririan, Wildlife Trust of India.
It may be mentioned that population of Gyps vultures decreased by about 95 per cent within as few as three years in the 1990s, across parts of their home range in south Asia. A commonly-used livestock algesic/anti-inflammatory drug ‘Diclofec’ was then identified as one of the main causes for this near obliteration of the vultures.
Use of ‘Diclofec’ is presently banned in India. However, threats like secondary poisoning continue to haunt vulture populations across the country, especially Assam. It is to be noted that most of these deaths are cases of secondary poisoning, wherein vultures were not the target of the locals.