Goa: Vultures on decline in Chorla ghat, say Greens

KERI: The world over, there is a hue and cry over the sudden decline in the numbers of vultures. The nine species of vultures which are found in India are today threatened, point out conservationists. Two prominent species, Gyps Indicus and Gyps Tenuirostris, are fighting a loosing battle.

In Goa, the Gyps Indicus, aka, long-billed vultures, were found in good numbers in and around the Chorla ghat region. But from 2006, their number has been gradually decreasing, say birders.

Pankaj Lad of Canopy Eco-tourism Venture, Margao, had reported nine vultures and four nests on December 3, 2004. However, in 2008 he reported only one nest and four vultures. The avid birder says, “Vultures these days are struggling for food in the Chorla ghat region as people have already stopped throwing dead cattle in the open.”

The long-billed vulture is the smallest of the species measuring about 95 to 100 cm in length. It has an elongated head with a long and heavy beak. It migrates during the monsoon and returns to Chorla ghat in October.

Deepak Gawas, a volunteer with Vivekanand Environment Awareness Brigade which is involved in environment conservation, says, “In 2006, I spotted nine long-billed vultures at the Vazra Sakhala waterfall in Chorla ghat. Their number has been decreasing steadily.”

Siddhesh Gawas, a trekker from Shiroli-Sattari, who recently organized a trekking expedition to the Vazra Sakhala waterfall in Chorla ghat, says, “We sighted four long-billed vultures on November 29. We also spotted their nesting site in the crevices of the waterfall.” Omkar Dharwadkar from Ponda even managed to photograph a long-billed vulture in flight.

Heinz Lainer, a well known ornithologist in his book ‘Birds of Goa’ has mentioned that the species of Gyps Indicus is today critically endangered. Most sighting of this bird is of singles and twos. Vultures mostly feed on animal carcasses but also take scraps from human settlements. Long-billed vultures are efficient scavengers. India has the highest number of cattle and vultures play an important role in carrion removal and prevention of diseases. Due to their decline, rotting carcasses lie unattended in several parts of the country, say reports. Environment magazine `Nature’ reported that diclofenac, a commonly used painkiller for cattle, was responsible for the decline in vulture numbers. Diclofenac was found to lead to gout, kidney failure and subsequent death of vultures. Meloxicam, another drug, was suggested as an alternative since it was not harmful to vultures.

Mining, logging and even monoculture plantations are conditions that change the habitat of vultures and are believed to be the cause of their decline.

From TOI

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