Understanding the importance of vultures in our ecosystem


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Diclofenac

Mains level : Paper 3- Declining vulture population and steps taken


India lost more than 95% of its vulture population through the 1990s and by the mid-2000s. Today, the country requires urgent conservation efforts to save vultures from becoming extinct.

About vultures

  • Vultures belong to the Accipitridae family whose members include eagles, hawks and kites.
  • They are relatively social birds with an average lifespan of 10-30 years in the wild.
  • Vultures are slow breeders and so the survival of every individual is very crucial.
  • Generally, vultures rely on other carnivores to open carcasses.
  • Their powerful bills and long slender necks are designed to help them tear off the meat chunks from inside the carcass.
  • India has nine species of vultures. Many are critically endangered.
  • Vultures have a highly acidic stomach that helps them digest rotting carcass and kill disease-causing bacteria.

Role played by vultures in ecosystem

  • Removing vultures from the ecosystem leads to inefficient clearing of carcasses and contaminates water systems.
  • If dead animals are left to rot for long durations, it may give rise to disease-causing pathogens.
  • The animals that consume such flesh become further carriers of disease.
  • Thus, they play a crucial role in maintaining the health of the ecosystem.

Factors responsible for decline in future population

  • India has nine species of vultures. Many are critically endangered.
  • Use of diclofenac: The main reason for the decline in the vulture population is the use of the drug, diclofenac.
  • Diclofenac, which relieves cattle of pain, is toxic to vultures even in small doses and causes kidney failure and death.
  • Hunting: Myths about the medicinal healing powers of vultures’ body parts has led to the hunting of vultures.
  • Quarrying: Quarrying and blasting of stones where vultures nest have also caused their decline.

Steps to increase numbers

  • India banned diclofenac for veterinary use in 2006.
  • Five States are to get vulture breeding centres under the Action Plan for Vulture Conservation for 2020-2025, approved in October 2020.
  • Vulture ‘restaurants’, which exist in some countries, are also a way of preserving the population.
  •  In these ‘restaurants’, diclofenac-free carcasses of cattle are dumped in designated areas where vultures gather to feed.


Awareness and action must go hand in hand. With International Vulture Awareness Day coming up on September 4, it is important for us to spread awareness about the importance of vultures in our ecosystem.

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2 years ago

Thank U


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