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Exploring the Himalayan Vulture


Recently, the Assam State Zoo in Guwahati has achieved a groundbreaking feat by successfully breeding the elusive Himalayan vulture (Gyps himalayensis) in captivity for the first time in India.


GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Exploring the Himalayan Vulture
  2. Ketoprofen and Aceclofenac: Impact on Vultures

Exploring the Himalayan Vulture

Conservation Status:
  • IUCN Red List: Near Threatened.
  • CITES Appendix II.
Impressive Characteristics:
  • Stature and Wingspan: Among the largest Old World vulture species, boasts an imposing wingspan and formidable presence.
  • Camouflaged Plumage: Adorned with shades of black and brown, aiding in seamless blending with rugged mountain landscapes.
  • Mastery of Scavenging: Possesses a powerful hooked beak and keen eyesight, excelling as an efficient scavenger, vital for carrion clean-up.
Habitat and Range:
  • Himalayan Haven: Primarily found in the towering peaks and valleys of the Himalayan mountain range.
  • Winter Migration: Commonly migrates to the Indian plains during the winter season.
  • Extensive Range: Thrives across countries like India, Nepal, Bhutan, and China, adapting to challenging high-altitude settings.
Ecosystem Role:
  • Ecological Cleaner: Serves as a crucial top predator and scavenger, maintaining habitat health by disposing of animal remains.
  • Disease Prevention: Acts as a shield against disease spread from decaying carcasses, contributing to ecosystem balance.
Captive Breeding Challenges and Success:
  • Snowy Breeding Habits: Natural breeding in snow-clad mountains posed captivity challenges.
  • Acclimatization Triumph: Successful zoo breeding via long-term captivity and acclimatization to tropical conditions.
Threats and Conservation Efforts:
  • Vulnerability Factors: Habitat loss, food scarcity, and accidental poisoning from veterinary drugs contribute to its vulnerable status.
  • Conservation Breeding Centers: Vital role played by centers like the Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre (VCBC) in Rani, Assam, in safeguarding this vulture species.

Ketoprofen and Aceclofenac: Impact on Vultures

Ketoprofen and Aceclofenac: NSAIDs for Pain and Inflammation:
  • Ketoprofen and aceclofenac are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) commonly used to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation in animals, particularly cattle.
  • These drugs are prescribed for various conditions including arthritis, injuries, and post-surgery pain management.
Harmful Effects on Vultures:
  • Lethal Consequences: These NSAIDs have proven to be detrimental to vultures, leading to severe health consequences and even death.
  • Kidney Failure: Consumption of animal carcasses treated with ketoprofen or aceclofenac results in kidney failure among vultures.
  • Carcass Contamination: Vultures feeding on treated animal remains ingest the drugs, which wreak havoc on their renal system, ultimately causing fatal damage.
Ecological Impact:
  • Ecosystem Disruption: The decline in vulture populations due to NSAID toxicity disrupts the ecological balance, as vultures play a crucial role in scavenging carcasses and preventing the spread of diseases.
  • Carrion Cleanup: Vultures’ natural scavenging behavior contributes to the removal of carcasses, thus reducing the risk of diseases that could arise from decaying animal remains.
Conservation Concerns and Measures:
  • Drastic Decline: The toxic effects of these NSAIDs have significantly contributed to the decline of vulture populations in certain regions.
  • Conservation Initiatives: Awareness campaigns, changes in veterinary practices, and efforts to limit the use of these harmful drugs in livestock have been implemented to mitigate the impact on vultures.
  • Vulture Safe Zones: Establishing designated areas where safe food sources are available can help safeguard vultures from the dangers of NSAID-contaminated carcasses.
Importance of Vulture Conservation:
  • Environmental Balance: Vultures’ role in carrion disposal prevents the spread of diseases and contributes to a healthier ecosystem.
  • Biodiversity Protection: Ensuring vulture survival is crucial for maintaining biodiversity and preventing imbalances in the food chain.

-Source: The Hindu

April 2024