KATHMANDU, Feb 24: Five vultures with satellite transmitters fitted on them released 23 months ago from Rupandehi and Nawalparasi districts have been confirmed dead.
This has thrown cold water on efforts being carried out by Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN) to track the trail of the white-rumped vultures (Gyps Bengalensis). The white-rumped vultures are the most endangered species.
Earlier, BCN had released the same number of the vultures in 2007. The vultures had died after a few months, though they had lived a bit longer than those released later, according to senior conservation officer at BCN Ishana Thapa.
“The vultures we released the second time were juveniles,” Thapa said, adding that it could not be exactly confirmed when and where the birds breathed their last. “We could recover the tag of only one vulture some six months ago and that had not flown beyond Nepal.”
While vultures released in 2007 had flown as far as Gujarat and Sikkim of India, the result this time around is vague as the transmitters stopped giving signals soon after the chicks were set free. Moreover, unlike earlier, BCN had this time used solar powered transmitters. Earlier, the batteries fitted on the transmitters lasted only for two years.
“Yet we could not even trace the batteries,” Thapa noted adding that objective of determining “vulture safe zone” could not be achieved this time as well.
BCN was carrying out the study with support from Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) and Royal Society for Protection of Birds, UK. Purchasing satellite space costs around 2 to 2.5 pounds, Thapa informed. “And as we have to buy the space for a few years. This makes the project costly,” she said.
Studies show that white rumped- vultures are the smallest of the Gyps Vultures and weigh around 4.75 kg. A healthy white -rumped vulture lives for around 50 years. These are found in Nepal and India among other parts of Asia. Interestingly, vultures of all types are said to rely on their amazing ability to smell food from a long distance.
Meanwhile, Sushila Singh Nepali, executive officer of BCN, opined that the vultures must have died due to the Diclofenac drug, which has long been claimed as the reason of massive decline in vulture population over the years. “Though it is no more legal to use this drug, things go unchecked at many places. So the vultures might have died after eating the carcasses of the dead animals infested with the drug. But we cannot confirm this,” she remarked.
According to studies, there were some 500,000 vultures in Nepal 15 years ago. But vulture population has declined by 90 per cent now. Of the eight species of vultures found in Nepal, four have been listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered birds.