Vulture populace rises in Hazaribagh

Hazaribagh: A non-governmental organisation's persistent efforts to stop prescribing diclofenac medicine by veterinary doctors to treat illness in cattle has helped increase vulture population in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand.

Thanks to the efforts, the population of vulture, declared an endangered species worldwide, to jump five fold in this forested region.

From a mere 60 or so, the vulture population in Hazaribagh has climbed to 300-plus, the convenor of the NGO Neo-Human Foundation, Satya Prakash, said.

Not surprisingly Hazaribagh has recently been declared by the authorities as 'Vulture Safe Zone' where the winged scavangers feed on dead cattle without having to die later.

"The role played by vultures in keeping environment safe by feeding off carcasses and scavanging rubbish cannot be overemphasised and veterinary doctors and chemists have a significant important role in protecting the birds by not prescribing diclofenac medicines," Prakash says.

It has been found that pharmacies in the country continue to sell the medicine, which has been banned in India in 2006, to livestock owners, resulting in the dramatic fall in the number of vultures.

A study reported by BirdLife International has found that diclofenac is responsible for pushing three south Asian species of vultures to the brink of extinction.

The fall in vulture population was first noticed in the late 1990s. Prakash said his organisation's efforts to save the birds had paid off because of help extended by the Bombay Natural History Society, the Royal Society for Protection of Birds and the forest department.

He warned that if vets and chemists did not take the initiative, diseases would break out. The general secretary of the Chemists and Druggists Association, Laxmi Kumar Gupta, said he would make his contribution in protecting vultures by requesting veterinary doctors not to prescribe harmful medicines.

The general manager of Jharkhand Forest Development Corporation, Mahendra Prasad, has appreciated the foundation's contribution in protecting the birds.