John, our falconer is thrilled to announce the hatching of two Oriental White-backed Vultures at a conservation breeding centre that we support, near Lahore in Pakistan. We and all the partners supporting the International Vulture Programme are heartened by this news.
Vultures are an ecologically vital group of birds that face a range of threats. Many populations are under pressure and are facing extinction. The International Vulture Conservation Programme is a growing partnership of supporters that enables a range of projects in southern Africa and south Asia.
Vultures have an undeserved bad reputation. They’re often seen as dirty, ugly scavengers, congregating around dead or dying animals. But the reality is that ecosystems rely on these birds, which have many important roles. While their choice of food may turn your stomach, they’re helping to reduce the spread of disease by cleaning up carrion.
Yet, vulture populations — particularly in Africa and Asia — have plummeted in the last few decades. For instance, the white-backed vulture of India was so abundant in 1980 that it was considered one of the most common large birds of prey in the entire world. Now, just a few decades later, it is critically endangered after a 99.9 percent decline.
Vultures need large ranges to scan for food and undisturbed areas in which to nest. They also need an abundance of prey species since they rely more on chance than their own hunting skills to eat. All of these things have been reduced by human activity. Meanwhile, there is a dramatic increase in secondary poisoning. Vultures feed on carcasses laced with poison, intended to kill jackals or other predatory carnivores. Or they are poisoned by the lead in animals left behind by hunters. Or they are poisoned by diclofenac, a veterinary drug given to livestock which is toxic to vultures who feed on animals that die naturally or are brought down by other animals.
Encouragingly, two other pairs of vultures have shown signs of breeding behaviour at the Lahore centre – a promising sign for future breeding.
Dr Campbell Murn, Head of Conservation and Research at the Hawk Conservancy Trust said “This is a fantastic boost for the project in Pakistan. Along with all our partners we have worked hard for positive results and these chicks are a great reward. What needs to happen now is further work to remove vulture unsafe veterinary drugs from circulation.”
Saving a vulture this summer won’t cost you an arm and a leg – these wrist bands are available for a suggested donation of £1 – just ask Gilly on the reception.
Keep an eye open for details of International Vulture Day on September 3rd, a co-ordinated international day that publicises the conservation of vultures to a wider audience and highlights the important work being carried out by the world’s vulture conservationists.
On the first Saturday in September, John and the LDWP team will be carrying out activities that highlight vulture conservation and awareness, as well as fund raising for the project.