India planning to have vulture safe zones


New Delhi : Concerned over the dwindling population of vultures in the country, India is planning to have ‘vulture safe zones’ where the use of the drug diclofenac, used in treatment of livestock and the reason for the disappearance of vultures, will be prohibited.

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The decision was taken during an inter-ministerial meeting held by the environment ministry Monday.

The meeting was attended by representatives of other ministries like health, commerce, agriculture, state forest departments, and scientists from Bombay Natural History Society, Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History.

“All members present agreed to the concept of having ‘vulture safe zones’ where a landscape approach will be implemented to free certain vulture important areas from use of the killer drug diclofenac,” said a statement issued by the ministry Tuesday.

The participants also discussed ways and means to check use of human diclofenac for treatment of livestock.

Diclofenac is a widely available veterinary drug used to treat domestic livestock. Vultures are exposed to the drug when they consume carcasses of animals that were treated with the drug. Vultures die from kidney failure within days of exposure to diclofenac-contaminated tissues.

Vultures are critically endangered species with their number recording a sharp fall.

The participants also discussed critical issues regarding streamlining of delivery mechanisms for the alternate drug, meloxicam, and encouraging its use through subsidy.

The meeting underscored the importance of channelising and coordinating expertise from various sectors and organisations and called for greater integration of vulture conservation strategies.

State forest departments put forth various proposals including one related to creation of a vulture sanctuary between Bangalore and Mysore in Ramnagaram district, bettering captive breeding efforts and strengthening mechanisms to ensure better off-take of the alternate safe drug meloxicam for veterinary use.