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10 Captive-Bred Vultures Of Critically Endangered Species Released In Bengal

  • India marked a landmark moment for vulture conservation with the second phase of reintroduction programme of critically endangered Oriental White-backed Vulture at Rajabhatkhawa near the Buxa Tiger Reserve in Alipurduar of West Bengal.
  • Ten critically endangered Oriental White-backed Vulture were released from an aviary with the help of a pulley located in a hide which was located 50 metres away.
  • All the ten vultures were over two years old and were the Oriental White Backed species which are critically endangered as per International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) status.
  • The species has declined by 99.9% in wild in India. The birds were deployed with satellite tags also known as Platform Transmitter Terminal (PTT).
  • With the help of these PTT the birds will be now continuously monitored through satellites.

Need of such efforts

  • Vultures are called as ecosystem doctors for the role they play in our ecosystem. Their population has reduced massively in last decades. Such efforts are important strop to check their extinction.

Change in Numbers

  • According to estimates by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), India had a vulture population of 40 million in the 1980s, but that number dropped by more than 99 per cent in the 1990s and this was attributed to the use of an anti-inflammatory drug called diclofenac, which was routinely used to treat cattle in veterinary medicine. In 2006, India banned the use of the drug for treating cattle.
  • Habitat destruction Developmental activities like establishment of power projects, irrigation projects, industrial units, construction of highways etc. have ruined the habitats of Vultures resulting into decline in their population.
  • Slow breeding rate: Vultures lay a single egg in a breeding season. Hence their slow breeding rate is also a threat to their survival.

Earlier Efforts

  • Since 2002 BNHS has been carrying out conservation breeding of three critically endangered species of vultures Pinjore (Haryana) Rajabhatkhawa (West Bengal) Rani (Assam) and Van Vihar (Madhya Pradesh). The three species are Oriental White Backed vultures, Long Billed vultures, and Slender Billed vultures.
  • Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) has successfully bred them in captivity and has started experimental release of these captive vultures to return them back to the wild.
  • Rajabhatkhawa centre is receiving support from the Government of West Bengal and Government of India where ten of these captive-bred vultures were released in 2021 and all ten of them have survived in the wild.

White-Backed Vulture

Gyps bengalensis

  • Alias: Indian White-backed Vulture, White-backed Vulture
  • IUCN Red List Status: Critically Endangered (Population decreasing)
  • This species is an Old World vulture, different from the African White-backed Vulture – Gyps africanus, from Africa.
  • It is also known as Indian White-backed Vulture, Oriental White-backed Vulture and White-rumped Vulture.
  • Gyps bengalensis is very common on the Indian subcontinent. It regularly occurs in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and southern Vietnam.
  • It formerly occurred in southern China and Malaysia but is now extinct in that region.
  • White-rumped vultures are medium-sized, dark vultures. Adults are 75 to 85 cm tall, their wing span is 180 to 210 cm, and their weight ranges from 3.5 to 7.5 kg.
  • There is a pale grey patch on the upper surface of the wings, visible when the wings are folded.
  • White-rumped vultures feed almost exclusively on the remains of dead animals, regardless of whether it is fresh or putrid.
  • White-rumped vultures are important in helping prevent the spread of diseases by ridding areas of carcasses.
  • Declines in vulture numbers in India and Pakistan are resulting in an increase of carcasses remaining to feral dog populations, leading to an increase in the number of feral dogs, which transmit rabies to human populations.

Species of Vultures found in India and their Conservation Status

  • Indian Vulture (Gyps indicus)- Critically Endangered
  • Indian White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis)- Critically Endangered
  • Red-headed Vulture (Sarcogypscalvus)- Critically Endangered
  • Slender-billed Vulture (Gyps tenuirostris)- Critically Endangered
  • Egyptian Vulture (Neophronpercnopterus)- Endangered
  • Cincerous Vulture (Aegypiusmonachus)- Near Threatened
  • Bearded Vulture (Gypaetusbarbatus)- Least Concern
  • Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus)-Least Concern
  • Himalayan Vulture (Gyps himalayansis)- Least Concern

Buxa Tiger Reserve

  • Buxa Tiger Reserve is situated in the Alipurduar Sub-division of Jalpaiguri District, West Bengal.
  • It was created in 1983 as the 15th tiger reserve of India.
  • It was declared as a National Park in January 1992.
  • The main rivers flowing across the Tiger Reserve are Sankosh, Raidak, Jayanti, Churnia, Turturi, Phashkhawa, Dima and Nonani.


Consider the following statements about River Pampa –

  1. A Vulture Safe Zone (VSZ) is a geographical area of at least 500 Km radius, which is designated as natural habitat of wild vultures and is made free of the presence of the drug Diclofenac in animal carcasses.
  2. Vulture Breeding and Conservation Centre had already been established at – Pinjore, Haryana, Rani, Guwahati (Assam), Buxa, West Bengal, Junagarh, Bhopal, Hyderabad and Bhubaneswar.

Which of the following statements above is/are correct?

  1. Only 1
  2. Only 2
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. None of the above




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