South Asian Vultures – Keeping Them Alive

ambience vultures

Over the past ten years, the populations of three species of South Asian vultures have been mysteriously declining – enough to have the birds declared endangered species. Recently, scientists discovered the cause of their deaths, and efforts have begun to reestablish the vultures in their environment. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

“These species occupy a unique niche in this part of the world in South Asia. There are no other avian scavengers that we know of that would be quite as effective at removing carcasses as these species have been.”

Rick Watson is International Programs Director of the Peregrine Fund. He says the vultures’ deaths have been traced to the veterinary use of diclovinac, an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat cattle. In south Asia, vultures have played the crucial role of feeding upon and disposing of – cattle carcasses.

“We have a very small window of opportunity right now to prevent the extinction of these three vulture species. We believe the numbers are so low now that they would not recover on their own even if dyclovinac was removed from their food source right away. We would like to apply a model that we’ve applied to the recovery of the Peregrine falcon in the United States, which is captive breeding and release. By taking birds into captivity, we can produce enough young later on, once the environment has been cleaned up, to release those young and help restore the populations.”

Along with the captive vulture breeding program, veterinary use of the drug dyclovinac is being limited by South Asian governments. And local ranchers are encouraged to be part of the solution.

Without vultures to dispose of livestock carcasses, conditions would be ripe for wide scale epidemics in South Asia. The measures currently being taken should restore the vulture population.

Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.

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South Asian Vultures - Keeping Them Alive

Governments, farmers and environmental groups are working together to preserve South Asia's most important predators.
Air Date:12/15/2006
Scientist:
Transcript:


ambience vultures

Over the past ten years, the populations of three species of South Asian vultures have been mysteriously declining - enough to have the birds declared endangered species. Recently, scientists discovered the cause of their deaths, and efforts have begun to reestablish the vultures in their environment. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

"These species occupy a unique niche in this part of the world in South Asia. There are no other avian scavengers that we know of that would be quite as effective at removing carcasses as these species have been."

Rick Watson is International Programs Director of the Peregrine Fund. He says the vultures' deaths have been traced to the veterinary use of diclovinac, an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat cattle. In south Asia, vultures have played the crucial role of feeding upon and disposing of - cattle carcasses.

"We have a very small window of opportunity right now to prevent the extinction of these three vulture species. We believe the numbers are so low now that they would not recover on their own even if dyclovinac was removed from their food source right away. We would like to apply a model that we've applied to the recovery of the Peregrine falcon in the United States, which is captive breeding and release. By taking birds into captivity, we can produce enough young later on, once the environment has been cleaned up, to release those young and help restore the populations."

Along with the captive vulture breeding program, veterinary use of the drug dyclovinac is being limited by South Asian governments. And local ranchers are encouraged to be part of the solution.

Without vultures to dispose of livestock carcasses, conditions would be ripe for wide scale epidemics in South Asia. The measures currently being taken should restore the vulture population.

Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.

music