In a first, a vulture conservation and breeding centre will be set up in Maharashtra’s Pingori — some 60 kms from Pune — after the state Forest Department and Ela Foundation signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) recently for the same.
“From the ecological perspective, vultures are a vital group of birds which face different threats. There are many issues affecting the population, and many species are going extinct,” Dr Satish Pande, noted ornithologist and director of Ela Foundation, told The Indian Express ahead of International Vulture Awareness Day — observed on the first Saturday of every September — on Saturday (September 2).
According to the state Forest Department, the foundation was asked to start and operate the centre especially due to its ornithological expertise, experience with the conservation of critically endangered vulture species in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, and publications of scientific papers on the crucial subject.
The move is also part of an action plan drawn by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) for vulture conservation in India (2020-2025). The action plan states that though the Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre’s (VCBC) primary objective is breeding critically endangered vultures, it would help in-situ conservation efforts of vultures as well amidst facilities, infrastructure, and capacities developed over the years.
The new centre will come up at Ela Habitat — a field station of Ela Foundation — which has Viloo C Poonawalla Hospital for Wildlife (transit treatment centre) on the same premises, with its launch event on Saturday.
The Vulture Multi-species Action Plan states, “Vultures provide critically important ecosystem services by cleaning up carcasses and other organic waste in the environment; they are nature’s garbage collectors and this translates into significant economic benefits. Studies have shown that in areas where there are no vultures, carcasses take up to three or four times longer to decompose. This has huge implications for the spread of diseases in both wild and domestic animals, as well as elevating pathogenic risks to humans.”
Dr Pande pointed out that a VCBC would require infrastructure, including vulture cages/enclosures, incubation area, quarantine zone, feeding and keeping areas for species under treatment, soft pre-release areas, laboratory, and office, apart from vulture feeding facilities (kitchen and cold storage) and food expenses (meat or beef). There would be a need for laboratory equipment for haematology, biochemistry, toxicology and RT-PCR.
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