To study the ecology of vultures in the state and gain insight into their migration pattern, the Sasan Wildlife Division in Junagadh has satellite-tagged six vultures of three species as a part of the Action Plan for Vulture Conservation, 2020-2025, launched by the Central government on November 12.
Mohan Ram, the Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) at Sasan Wildlife Division, said Friday they have tagged three long-billed vultures (LBV), two white-rumped vultures (WRV) and one king vulture (KV) between October 12 and November 12 by trapping the birds in Juna-gadh and Bhavnagar districts.
The satellite tags are powered by solar-photovoltaic cells, the DCF said in an official release.
“Considering the sharp decline in the vulture population and focusing on its conservation, it is important to have in-depth scientific information about the birds feeding sites, migration routes and general height at which they fly, preferred roosting and breeding sites etc. Therefore, a project on tagging vultures with satellite tags was started by the Sasan Wildlife Division with the approval of the Central government,” Ram said.
Under the project, he added, in-depth discussions were held with international experts on tagging vultures and “as per their guidance, six vultures were tagged with solar-powered tags suitable for vultures”.
Nine species of vultures are found in India, eight of which have been recorded in Gujarat. Of the eight, at least four — WRV, LBV, KV and Egyptian vulture — are resident species in Gujarat while the remaining, including Eurasian griffon and Himalayan griffon, are migratory.
Over the last two decades, the vulture population in Gujarat has seen a drastic decline. The population of these winged scavengers was estimated to be 2,647 individuals in 2005. It came down to just 820 individuals by 2020, a book published by Gujarat forest department on the vultures of the state stated.
“According to a study conducted between 1992 and 2007, a sharp decline of 99.9 per cent in WRV’s population and 95 per cent in the population of other gyps vultures was observed. Owing to this catastrophic decline, different species of vultures are listed under ‘critically endangered’ or ‘threatened’ categories by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN),” Ram said. The satellite telemetry of vultures, he added, will help understand many unknown aspects of these birds.
As per the latest population estimates, there are a total of 352 WRV and 285 LBVs in Gujarat. Mahuva region of Bhavnagar hosts almost 45 per cent of WRVs, and the population has remained largely stable since 2012, Ram said. Fifty-two per cent population of LBVs is believed to be in Saurashtra region, with its highest concentration in Junagadh district, he added.
“This work (satellite tagging) may provide authentic scientific information about various unknown facts about the vultures… With the help of these tags, information about the local migration and other movements, habitat preferences, territory etc can be ascertained,” the DCF added.
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