Siliguri workshop addresses problem of declining vulture population
Addressing the issue of declining vulture population in the country, a wildlife group along with the West Bengal Government organised a workshop recently to create awareness on usage of a harmful drug and its effect on the vulture population.
The Himalayan Nature Adventure Foundation (HNAF) and Animal Resources Development Department organised a workshop in Siliguri, and informed people about the ill-effects of Diclofenac drug on the vulture population, and how it how enters the food chain.
The workshop was attended by veterinary doctors and wildlife activists.
Wildlife activist, Souma Chakraborty, explained that such awareness programmes were needed to address the issue of declining vulture population.
"Indian species of vulture such as white-rumped, white backed, slender billed and long billed vultures are most vulnerable and their number has seen an alarming decline. These species need to be conserved," said Chakraborty.
Vultures, while they may be low in the pecking order as far as beauty is concerned, are considered sacred by many in the world's second most populous nation.
The dramatic drop in the population has created a crisis for the Parsis, who leave the dead in stone towers to be eaten by vultures because its religion forbids burial and cremation.
Parsis or Zoroastrians regard fire, earth and water as sacred and believe the vulture helps release the spirits of their ancestors.
A veterinary doctor from Cooch Behar, Dr. Avra Kanti Roy, explained the importance of scavengers in maintaining the ecological balance.
"Vulture is the most important scavenger which feeds on carcasses of dead animals. This cleans the environment and prevents pollution which otherwise would lead to spread of disease," said Roy.
Diclofenac, a veterinary drug, is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), is giving to animals in case of joint pains.
After studies concluded that Diclofenac is one of the primary reasons for the extinction of Indian species of vultures, the government banned its usage in 2005. Meloxicam was proposed as an alternative which is hardly used because of limited production and high cost.
India has banned manufacture of the veterinary form of the anti-inflammatory, but a version formulated for humans is still used to treat livestock, the researchers said. When the vultures feed on carcasses they ingest the drug, which shuts down their kidneys and kills them within days.
The birds are critical to the ecosystem and for human health in the couuntry because they are the primary means of getting rid of animal carcasses in the nation of some 1.12 billion people.
(Posted on 01-03-2014)