The Solution - Breeding Centres
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Why do we need a vulture breeding programme?
The unprecedented scale and speed of vulture population declines has left all three resident Gyps vulture species critically endangered. In order to ensure each species’ survival it is necessary to bring them into captivity for breeding purposes. Removing diclofenac from the environment will allow the eventual recovery of vulture populations but this process, in practice, may take several years. Therefore it is essential to protect vultures in an environment where they will not be exposed to the drug. Successful captive breeding will enable vulture numbers to increase, eventually allowing for the release of vultures back into the wild, once their food source in Asia is free of diclofenac.
The success of the Eurasian Griffon vulture captive breeding and release programme in Europe and the programme that saved the Californian Condor from extinction demonstrate that this approach will work. Without vulture conservation breeding centres, it is a very real possibility that resident Gyps vultures will become extinct across South Asia.
Vulture breeding centres in India
Dr Vibhu Prakash, Principal Scientist, BNHS, heads the vulture breeding programme in India and manages a large number of staff and complex range of activities varying from overseeing the construction of aviaries and facilities, organising the capture of vultures for the centres, to managing the feeding requirements and health of birds within the three centres. The involvement of BNHS in the capture and breeding of vultures in India continues to expand and the programme now holds 182 vultures in captivity at three centres in the states of Haryana, West Bengal and Assam. With funding from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), India, the Indian Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has plans to establish a further five centres in India. The BNHS vulture conservation breeding programme is fully recognised by the CZA and Dr Vibhu Prakash is now advising the CZA on their bird breeding programmes. The World Association of Zoos and Aquarians (WAZA) has formally recognised the vulture conservation breeding programme in India and Nepal. Crucial support and land for the breeding centres has come from state Forestry Departments within India. Governing councils have been formally established to oversee the running of the centres in India ie in Haryana, West Bengal and Assam.
Funding for the breeding programme in India was initially from the UK government's Darwin Initiative, with most support now coming from the RSPB and other donors. Technical support on the management of birds and breeding at the centres is supplied by Jemima Parry-Jones of the National Bird of Prey Trust (NBPT) and veterinary guidance is provided by Dr Andrew Routh (Chief Veterinary Officer, ZSL). Further technical support to the breeding programme activities and the capture of birds for the centres is provided by the RSPB and ZSL.
The following photos taken by Dr Vibhu Prakash (BNHS) show the latest successes of the breeding programme in India, including a the first Slender-Billed Vulture chick to be hatched using artificial incubation.
First Slender-billed vulture chick to be hatched using artificial incubation
White-backed and Slender-billed vulture chicks (left) and Slender-billed vulture chick (right)
Latest progress for this programme and media coverage will be available soon.
Vulture breeding centres in Nepal
In Nepal the centre has been established through a partnership of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) and Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN), with financial support and technical guidance provided by the ZSL and RSPB.
More information on the Nepal breeding centre programme will be added soon.
Vulture breeding centre at Changa manga in Pakistan
More information on the breeding centre programme in Pakistan will be added soon.
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