Terai region to be diclofenac-free zone for vultures

Lakhimpur: Vultures will soon get a safe home in the Terai region with conservationists embarking on a programme to make the area free from diclofenac, a drug which has led to a dip in the population of the scavenging birds.

The Terai region comprising Kheri, Pilibhit and Bahraich districts have a sizeable population of Indian vultures despite vulture casualties due to renal failure and visceral gout caused by diclofenac.

To strengthen the presence of the birds in the area and to make the place safe for them, the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) under its Birdlife Preventing Extinction Programme (BPEP) has undertaken the project to protect and conserve the depleting population of vultures.

Nearly 500 vultures have been reported surviving in Kheri during their ongoing counting till May 15.

International NGO, Birdlife, has sponsored the programme and neighbouring country Nepal is also assisting it to make Terai area, diclofenac-free, they said.

Diclofenac is a restricted drug, banned by the government in 2006 for veterinary uses.

The BNHS has assigned Katarnighat Foundation (KGF) and Terai Nature Conservation Society (TNCS) to carry out surveys, organise public awareness campaigns and to seek active cooperation from the authorities to stop the use of diclofenac by veterinary doctors.

"The vultures would be relocated in Terai region once the area becomes diclofenac-free. For the purpose, vultures are being breeded at Vulture Care Centre (VCC) in Pinjore, Haryana," Convenor, TNCS, Vijay Prakash Singh said.

"Samples from carcasses of livestock would be collected and tested to ascertain if the areas were diclofenac free. Once this is established, the vulture rehabilitation programme would be set in motion," Singh said.

According to divisional forest officer (DFO), North Kheri division, Kartik Kumar Singh nearly 200 vultures have been sighted in various ranges of the division.

"Nesting of vultures at several places in Isanagar, Dhaurehra, Nighasan and Belrayan had been spotted," he said.

Under the vulture conservation programme, public awareness campaigns would be held, village level committees would be formed and authorities would be urged to ensure that the natural scavengers enjoy a diclofenac-free zone, officials said.