From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Vulture Action Plan 2020-25
Mains level : Paper 3- Conservation efforts
Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change has launched a Vulture Action Plan 2020-25 for the conservation of vultures in the country.
Vulture Action Plan
- While the ministry has been carrying out a conservation project for vultures since 2006, the plan is to now extend the project to 2025 to not just halt the decline but to actively increase the vulture numbers in India.
- There are nine recorded species of vultures in India — the Oriental white-backed, long-billed, slender-billed, Himalayan, red-headed, Egyptian, bearded, cinereous and the Eurasian Griffon.
- Vulture numbers saw a steep slide — as much as 90 per cent in some species — in India since the 1990s in one of the most drastic declines in bird populations in the world.
Decline in Populations
- Between the 1990s and 2007, numbers of three presently critically-endangered species – the Oriental white-backed, long-billed and slender-billed vultures — crashed massively with 99 per cent of the species having been wiped out.
- The number of red-headed vultures, also critically-endangered now, declined by 91% while the Egyptian vultures by 80%.
- The Egyptian vulture is listed as ‘endangered’ while the Himalayan, bearded and cinereous vultures are ‘near threatened’.
Why protect vultures?
- Vultures are often overlooked and perceived as lowly scavengers, but they play a crucial role in the environments in which they live.
- The scavenging lifestyle that gives them a bad reputation is, in fact, that makes them so important for the environment, nature and society.
- Vultures, also known as nature’s cleanup crew, do the dirty work of cleaning up after death, helping to keep ecosystems healthy as they act as natural carcass recyclers.
- The crash in vulture populations came into limelight in the mid-90s, and in 2004.
- The cause of the crash was established as diclofenac — a veterinary nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat pain and inflammatory diseases such as gout — in carcasses that vultures would feed off.
- Just 0.4-0.7 per cent of animal carcasses contaminated with diclofenac was sufficient to decimate 99 per cent of vulture populations.
- The MoEFCC released the Action Plan for Vulture Conservation 2006 with the drugs controller banning the veterinary use of diclofenac in the same year and the decline of the vulture population being arrested by 2011.
- The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) and Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) also established the Vulture Conservation Breeding Programme.
- It has been successful and had three critically-endangered species bred in captivity for the first time.
- The ministry has now also launched conservation plans for the red-headed and Egyptian vultures, with breeding programmes for both.
- The Vulture Safe Zone programme is being implemented at eight different places in the country where there were extant populations of vultures, including two in Uttar Pradesh.