Conservation win for Bangladesh as efforts to halt vulture decline pay off

Conservation win for Bangladesh as efforts to halt vulture decline pay off

Vultures were a common sight across the Indian subcontinent until the late 1980s. But the excessive use of some veterinary drugs for cattle, which are toxic to the scavengers, and loss of habitat, led to a drastic fall in vulture numbers in the wild. By 2017, some species’ populations had fallen by 95%.

However, in Bangladesh, the populations of several vulture species have stabilized over the past few years, thanks to joint conservation efforts by the country’s forest department and the Bangladesh office of the IUCN, the global conservation authority. According to the team’s observations, the drastic decline in vulture populations has been halted in Bangladesh.

Raquibul Amin, the IUCN Bangladesh country representative, said their observations show the number of the vultures since the last census in 2015 has remained almost the same. He attributed this to the government’s timely initiatives to ban the use of harmful veterinary drugs and declare several “vulture safe zones” across the country.

Although the numbers are yet to increase to healthy figures, the plunge in population, at least, has stopped, and that’s a promising sign for the country’s wildlife conservation, said Monirul H. Khan, professor of Zoology at Jahangirnagar University. He added the current scenario indicates that, if the conservation efforts continue, the numbers could rise.

Diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug, was widely used to treat livestock in Bangladesh since the early 1990s. In 2003, researchers from The Peregrine Fund found that diclofenac is fatal to vultures, which don’t have the enzymes to break it down. When vultures scavenge on cattle that have been treated with diclofenac, they die within days due to kidney failure caused by the drug.

Lead Image: Different species of vultures congregated together. Image by Ad031259 via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 4.0).

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