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Upper Assam to be made safer for vultures

By Staff Correspondent
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DIBRUGARH, July 1 � The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), a pan-India wildlife research organisation, has sought to convert upper Assam and parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland into a �Vulture Safe Zone� for conservation of the endangered scavenger bird.

The upper Assam districts of Sonitpur, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Dibrugarh, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Karbi Anglong and Nagaon; Itanagar and Ziro of Arunachal Pradesh and Mon and Mokokchung areas in Nagaland, have been selected as provincial safe zone for vulture conservation and experts and research biologists from BNHS have already engaged themselves with awareness and advocacy programmes to fulfil their mission.

According to the research organisation, vultures of varied species have been disappearing from the region since the late 1990s, largely due to poisoning. In Assam too, the population of the vultures has declined drastically. Although less in numbers, some habitats have been traced in some areas of Golaghat, Jorhat, Sivasagar, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Lakhimpur districts, Indumoni Chetia, a Senior Research Biologist of BHNS said during a vulture conservation awareness programme at the State Veterinary Dispensary here.

Among the species of vultures seen in Assam, Chetia said the critically endangered ones were the White Back Vultures, Slender Bill Vultures and Long Billed Vultures. The research biologist said that the sudden decrease in the number of vultures was due to veterinary drugs called �Diclofenac�.

�This painkiller is a medicine for cattle but poison for vultures. Vultures die after they feed on the animal carcasses that have been treated with �Diclofenac� hours before their death. Diclofenac containing carcass can kill as many as forty vultures, as this birds normally feed in flocks. Although diclofenac was banned in 2006, the drug is still available in the market,� she said.

Scientists have also found recently that �Ketoprofen�, �Aceclofenac� and �Nimesulide� drugs in animals were unsafe for vultures. The safest drug at present is meloxicam drug, Chetia said.

Indumoni Chetia and Sangita Medhi, another research biologist of BNHS conducted the awareness programme in collaboration with State Veterinary Dispensary for veterinarians, pharmacists, and stakeholders of the district. The two young enthusiastic biologists made an appeal for support and carrying out awareness and advocacy programmes among all to make the demarcated area a safe zone for vulture conservation. They said that the safe zone area was provisional now and would be extended later to larger areas.

Considering the existence of a few natural habitation of vultures, availability of food and safety nature of the area for the release of young vultures, the region is best suited for conservation purpose.

The programme was inaugurated by the Deputy Commissioner M S Manivannan. Divisional Forest Officer, P Terrang and personnel from District Veterinary Department attended the programme, among others.

It needs to be mentioned here that BNHS in collaboration with Forest Department are also running a Captive Breeding Centre for Vultures in Rani in Kamrup district. The young vultures are later released in the selected safe zones.

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Upper Assam to be made safer for vultures

DIBRUGARH, July 1 � The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), a pan-India wildlife research organisation, has sought to convert upper Assam and parts of Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland into a �Vulture Safe Zone� for conservation of the endangered scavenger bird.

The upper Assam districts of Sonitpur, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji, Dibrugarh, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Golaghat, Karbi Anglong and Nagaon; Itanagar and Ziro of Arunachal Pradesh and Mon and Mokokchung areas in Nagaland, have been selected as provincial safe zone for vulture conservation and experts and research biologists from BNHS have already engaged themselves with awareness and advocacy programmes to fulfil their mission.

According to the research organisation, vultures of varied species have been disappearing from the region since the late 1990s, largely due to poisoning. In Assam too, the population of the vultures has declined drastically. Although less in numbers, some habitats have been traced in some areas of Golaghat, Jorhat, Sivasagar, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Lakhimpur districts, Indumoni Chetia, a Senior Research Biologist of BHNS said during a vulture conservation awareness programme at the State Veterinary Dispensary here.

Among the species of vultures seen in Assam, Chetia said the critically endangered ones were the White Back Vultures, Slender Bill Vultures and Long Billed Vultures. The research biologist said that the sudden decrease in the number of vultures was due to veterinary drugs called �Diclofenac�.

�This painkiller is a medicine for cattle but poison for vultures. Vultures die after they feed on the animal carcasses that have been treated with �Diclofenac� hours before their death. Diclofenac containing carcass can kill as many as forty vultures, as this birds normally feed in flocks. Although diclofenac was banned in 2006, the drug is still available in the market,� she said.

Scientists have also found recently that �Ketoprofen�, �Aceclofenac� and �Nimesulide� drugs in animals were unsafe for vultures. The safest drug at present is meloxicam drug, Chetia said.

Indumoni Chetia and Sangita Medhi, another research biologist of BNHS conducted the awareness programme in collaboration with State Veterinary Dispensary for veterinarians, pharmacists, and stakeholders of the district. The two young enthusiastic biologists made an appeal for support and carrying out awareness and advocacy programmes among all to make the demarcated area a safe zone for vulture conservation. They said that the safe zone area was provisional now and would be extended later to larger areas.

Considering the existence of a few natural habitation of vultures, availability of food and safety nature of the area for the release of young vultures, the region is best suited for conservation purpose.

The programme was inaugurated by the Deputy Commissioner M S Manivannan. Divisional Forest Officer, P Terrang and personnel from District Veterinary Department attended the programme, among others.

It needs to be mentioned here that BNHS in collaboration with Forest Department are also running a Captive Breeding Centre for Vultures in Rani in Kamrup district. The young vultures are later released in the selected safe zones.