Himachal Pradesh’s vulture breeding and conservation programme is showing encouraging results with white-rumped vultures making a comeback in the state’s Kangra district.
Once declared as critically endangered species with a decline of 95 per cent of its population, around 175 birds sighting have been reported in the district.
The state’s wildlife department claimed a major success in its 10-year long effort relating to vulture breeding and conservation programme.
Vulture’s decline was attributed to the use of diclofenac drug which was later banned.
“Vulture conservation and rehabilitation programme, which was started in 2004-05 by closely monitoring 26 nests and 23 fledglings, has shown amazing results. It was D S Dhadwal, a range officer at Pong Dam lake who along with his team, started a drive and documentation in Kangra,” said Additional Chief Secretary (Forest and Wildlife) Tarun Shridhar.
Dhadwal had also involved the local communities in monitoring the drive and also to enforce ban on diclofenac by educating the communities including farmers. Main focus areas were Pine forests and some of the potential sites which included feeding points and breeding sites. “We then annually searched and monitored all the potential and known sites for nests using direct counts,” he said.
In 2013-14, the number of nests counted were 274 and 241 fledglings. The number must have gone up by now, added Shridhar.
The master birds are breeding in 35 breeding colonies on the old straight trees of Cheer (Pinus roxburgii) growing on mild slopes in Shivalik hills. The old dried trees are also important as these birds are using these dried trees for roosting and surveillance. Only fear was that such breeding sites are under threat because of timber exploitation and resin tapping.
The nests are made with the needles and branches of the Pinus roxburgii trees. The master bird breeds in the colonies of about 3 to 30 nests. Each breeding area generally varies from 5 hectares 20 hectares
Right now, there are two feeding stations in Pong Lake, one at Nagrota Surian and another recently constructed at Jawali, where the dead animals are taken by local cobblers and skinned inside the interlinked fenced feeding stations to avoid competition with stray dogs.
Cobblers are being paid by the wild life wing to carry and skin the animals. Cobblers can also collect the bones and skin for their livelihood, Shridhar said.