No food and home for Jatayu!

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No Food or Home for Jatayu!
No Food or Home for Jatayu!

-Vivek Singh Chauhan

Lucknow: ‘Jatayu’, the mythological vulture who sacrificed its life while trying to save ‘Sita’ from ‘Ravana’, may have attained ‘moksha’ (salvation) but its kin are on the verge of extinction, at least in Uttar Pradesh.

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First, it was the painkiller ‘diclofenac sodium’ which took a toll, now it is the closure of illegal abattoirs and timber logging, which has led to shortage of food and habitat for these vulnerable scavengers. Only 2080 vultures are left in U.P, as per census of 2011.

“At few vulture sites, the closure of illegal slaughter houses has led to shortage of food for these birds places. Similarly, indiscriminate felling of big trees like ‘Semal’ (silk cotton), Banyan and Peepal have impacted adversely, as vultures make such large trees as their habitat. The government should take measures in these circumstances for their conservation”, says Professor Amita Kanaujia, wildlife expert and senior faculty at the department of zoology, university of Lucknow.

Talking to newstrack.com, Prof Kanaujia said, “despite of enacted ban on ‘Diclofenac’ (an anti-inflammatory non-steroidal drug, considered as the reason of deaths of vultures) in 2006, the number of vultures hasn’t increased expectedly so authorities must review their approach towards their conservation. There are many other major reasons behind the dwindling numbers of vultures as scarcity of food, water and habitat.”

On the contrary  eminent conservationist and secretary of TERAI Nature Conservation Society (TNCS) Vijay Prakash Singh, said, “At the tarai belt of Indo-Nepal border which includes Lakhimpur-Kheri, Bahraich and Pilibhit districts, food, water and favourable sites are in abundance but vulture population has been deteriorating with every passing day.”

He says that rampant illegal trade and use of Diclofenac is the sole reason behind the decrease in number of the birds as whole colony of birds could die eating Diclofenac contaminated carcass. And slender build vulture is the most vulnerable of all birds.

If Diclofenac is the main reason for the declining numbers of the endangered bird then it poses a serious question on the concerning authorities who are responsible for enforcing ban on the deadly drug.

Shivangi Mishra, who is doing research on Egyptian vulture says, “In the case of Egyptian vulture there is no tangible proof of adverse diclofenac effect has yet been reported. Lack of awareness and people’s attitude about these creatures is also responsible for their measurable conditions.”

Shivangi says that the only solution of this problem lies in the creation of ‘vulture-restaurant’, a place where animal carcass etc. is dumped. The government should take initiative of establishing such dumping places in isolated areas.

Conservation efforts

The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) with the help of British Charity Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is running ‘Jatayu Conservation Breeding Centre. ‘Pinjore’ (JCBC) is world’s largest facility within ‘Bir Shikargah’ sanctuary for the breeding and conservation of Indian vultures in Haryana. BNHS is also working in Bundelkhand region of Madhya Pradesh.

Bundelkhand, Kanpur, Lalitpur, Devgarh, Suhailwa and areas around Indo-Nepal border are the sites left in UP where vultures are living in their natural habitat. With a life span of nearly 45 years these scavengers are slow breeders, they lay single egg at a time with the incubation period of 45-50 days. The young chicks stay in the nest over 100 days, nest used to build on big trees, cliffs and on sky high historical monument seeking security from predators. As favourable habitat has lost their life became vulnerable.

Rajendra Kumar Singh, Chief forest conservator said, “However, Animal Diclofenac was banned in 2006, but it is still in use for humans as many veterinarians give its doses in high proportion  to diseased cattle, which is thrown after death to any dumping ground,  as vultures eat that carcass soon they die in masses.The post-mortem report of many vultures showed a developed gout (a Kidney disease) which often develop due to diclofenac and micro particles of polythene found in their bodies that shows drug effect and water contamination as prime reason of their mortality.”

“Not only for vultures but for all aerial fauna, state government has been running many conservative programs almost in every bird sanctuary,” he added.

He accepted the fact that timber logging has led to scarcity of habitat for vultures as big birds used nest in those big trees and shows concern about felling trees in populated non-urban areas.

Making world’s largest sculpture of ‘Jatayu’ may not please its soul as much as providing better living conditions to his kin, might.