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Monday, October 26, 2020

Many hopes pinned to their wings, eight endangered vultures born in captivity released, but yet to take flight

The release will mark the second phase of a 20-year-long vulture conservation project, which started in 2001 with efforts to identify the causes behind extinction of vultures, especially of the White-Backed, Splender-Billed and Oriental Long-Billed species.

Written by Saurabh Prashar | Panchkula | October 9, 2020 11:23:30 am
White-backed vultures, Morni hills, HaryanaWhite-backed vultures spotted at Morni hills. Express Photo: Jaipal Singh

Though the gate of the aviary was opened for the eight Oriental White-Backed vultures, the shy raptors were not willing to come out of their enclosure despite the waft of fresh meat placed metres away.

On Thursday, Haryana Forest Minister Kanwar Pal Gujjar opened the gates to the aviary as part of a release programme at the Jatayu Conservation and Breeding Centre (JCBC), Pinjore.

Dr Vibhu Prakash, head of JCBC, said, “I was expecting this behaviour from them. The vulture is a shy creature. It is always terrified due to the huge human presence. It takes time to normalise. We have opened the door of the aviary and expect that the vultures will fly out into the wild within the next 24 hours. They will take time. It is their natural behaviour. But we will continue to place goat meat for these scavengers because in the beginning, these vultures will stay in the vicinity of the centre.”

He further said, “In 2016, a pair of Himalayan Griffon vultures had also shown the same behaviour when the pair was released in the wild by Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar. The pair had taken flight after 24 hours.”

The gate of the aviary was initially opened only partially. Three sheep carcasses were placed outside it. The gate was then fully opened around 1.30 pm. However, the birds didn’t move much except for shifting in their positions.

Earlier in the day, Gujjar along with other dignitaries had released 10 Long-Billed and White-Backed vultures into a newly-constructed aviary for breeding purposes.

The release will mark the second phase of a 20-year-long vulture conservation project, which started in 2001 with efforts to identify the causes behind extinction of vultures, especially of the White-Backed, Splender-Billed and Oriental Long-Billed species. The conservation and breeding program was started in 2004 with the establishment of the Jatayu Conservation and Breeding Centre (JCBC) at Bir Shikar Gha wildlife sanctuary.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), Haryana, Dr Amarinder Kaur said, “Four years ago, we had released a pair of Himalayan Griffon vultures, which is not an endangered species, in the wild from the centre. The experiment was successful. Then we decided to release a critically endangered species with a GPS tracking system. We will be able to track down the eight vultures through the PTT. Very light weight red tags were attached to the wings of these vultures for their identification.”

Senior IFS officer M L Rajvanshi said, “Pinjore JCBC is a role model for the entire nation and the world. Inspired by JCBC, Pinjore, seven other vulture conservation centres are working in India. An MoU between the Haryana government and Bombay Natural History Society (BMHS) was extended till 2034 for vulture conservation. Presently there are 370 vultures in JCBC, Pinjore.”

Rescued vultures from other states like Gujrat, Rajasthan etc. did not pair with the vultures of Haryana. But now their fully grown chicks are pairing at JCBC, Pinjore. Dr Vibhu Prakash says, “Earlier, a rescued vulture from Gujarat only paired with a vulture from Gujarat, not with other states’ vultures. But now, their fully grown chicks have started pairing with each other ignoring state boundaries. A pair of vultures stay in long-lasting companionship.” The vultures which were released on Thursday into the new aviary for breeding are mixed pairs of vultures having lineage of different states.

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