After tigers, tuskers, it’s time to save vultures: Ramesh

February 17th, 2011 - 10:45 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 17 (IANS) After nationwide campaigns to save tigers and elephants in the country, the emphasis now needs to be on the conservation of endangered vultures, Environment and Forest minister Jairam Ramesh said Thursday.”Over the last few months, I have become aware of the issues concerning vultures and their importance to the ecology. We should spearhead the conservation movement for the endangered bird just the way we did for tigers and elephants,” Ramesh said at the launch of Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction (SAVE) consortium in the capital.

“What we forget again and again is that it’s not one species we are trying to save, but an entire ecology and food chain,” he added.

SAVE, a joint initiative by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and Britain-based Royal Society for Protection of Birds (RSPB), will breed the three critically endangered species of the bird.

“The vulture species have reduced by over 99 percent within just 15 years and the number is still declining. We need to take seriously the implications of the veterinary drug called diclofenac that harms the vultures feeding on the carcasses of animals,” said Ian Newton, chairman of the SAVE consortium.

Vultures as scavengers provide important ecological service as they help in rapidly reducing animal carcasses and plants to simpler constituents, maintaining the food chain and ecosystem.

“Without removing the killer-drug Diclofenac, it will be difficult to recover the vulture population. We urge the government to see that veterinary use of diclofenac is totally prohibited all over India,” said Asad R. Rahmani, director of the BNHS.

The venture includes tasks such as setting up vulture safe zones, preventing the illegal use of Diclofenac, providing safe alternatives to the drug, and building safe vulture release zones.

“It’s intriguing to see that such a popular character from mythology - vulture as Jatayu - is now on the verge of extinction,” said Ramesh.

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