The Vulture Conservation Breeding
Centre (VCBC) is a joint project of the Haryana Forest Department and the Bombay
Natural History Society (BNHS). It is a collaborative initiative to save the three
species of vultures, the White-backed, Long-billed and Slender-billed, from looming
The VCBC, earlier known as Vulture
Care Centre (VCC), was established in September 2001 with the UK Government's 'Darwin
Initiative for the Survival of Species' fund, to investigate the dramatic declines
in India's Gyps species of vultures.
Subsequent to the release of the
South Asia Vulture Recovery Plan in February 2004, the VCC was adapted and upgraded
to being the first VCBC, in line with a key recommendation of the Recovery Plan
to set up a conservation breeding programme for the three critically endangered
species of vultures. The centre sprawls over 5 acres of Haryana Forest Department's
land at village Jodhpur. The Jatayu Conservation Breeding Centre (JCBC) is a joint project of the Haryana
Forest Department and the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS).It is a collaborative
initiative to save the three species of vultures, the White-backed, Long-billed
and Slender-billed, from looming extinction. The centre is located at village Jodhpur
on the edge of the Bir Shikargaha Wildlife Sanctuary which is about 8 km off the
National Highway-22 from Pinjore on Mallah Road. The centre is spread on a 5 acre
land of Haryana Forest Department.
The JCBC, earlier known as Vulture Care Centre (VCC), was established in September
2001 with the UK Government's 'Darwin Initiative for the Survival of Species’ fund,
to investigate the dramatic declines in the resident Gyps species of vultures.
Subsequent to the release of the South Asia Vulture Recovery Plan in February 2004,
the VCC was adapted and upgraded to being the first JCBC, in line with a key recommendation
of the Recovery Plan to set up a conservation breeding programme for the three critically
endangered Gyps species of vultures.
At present the centre houses a total 160 Vultures which includes 63 White-backed
Vultures, 74 Long-billed Vultures, 21 Slender-billed Vultures and 2 Himalayan Griffons.
This is the largest collection of the three critically endangered Gyps species of
vulture at one place anywhere in the world.
A planned conservation breeding programme was initiated with the financial assistance
from the Central Zoo Authority, Darwin Initiative for the Survival of Species of
the Government of U.K., the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and
technical support of the Zoological Society of London and International Centre for
Birds of Prey, U.K.
The Centre is the first centre of its kind in Asia and is poised to make major contributions
in the conservation of these critically endangered species. It was designated as
the Coordinating Zoo for Vulture Conservation in India by the Central Zoo Authority.
White-Backed vultures with nestling on nest
- To establish a founder population of 25 pairs each of 3 species of vultures
- To produce a population of at least 200 birds of each species in 15 years to
be reintroduced in the wild.
- To release 100 pairs each, of the three species of vultures, in the next fifteen
years, to establish at least one viable population of resident Gyps, in an environment
free of diclofenac and other poisons.
Vulture Conservation Breeding Programme
The conservation breeding of vultures
became a major objective of the vulture project after the release of Vulture Recovery
Plan in February 2004. The major recommendation of the plan was to set up at least
three conservation breeding facilities in India, immediately and ultimately six
across south Asia.
A simple deterministic model of
a captive vulture population and the wild population eventually derived from it
indicated that a breeding centre with 25 pairs would be capable of producing a derived
wild population of 100 pairs about 10 years after the beginning of releases. To
allow for mortality in captivity and unequal number of the sexes taken from the
wild, it would be necessary to take about 60 birds of each species to establish
25 pairs of each species at each breeding centre which would eventually lead to
the restoration of a single wild population of 100 pairs 15 or more years later.
Releases would not begin until a minimum of 6 years had elapsed, since the capture
of the founding stocks (assuming that most of the founders are taken as nestlings
or juveniles) and provided diclofenac is completely out of the system. The suggested
age-structure of the founder population is 70-85% of known-age nestlings and 10-15%
sub-adults and adults, so that most of the captive population is of known-age and
are most likely to breed.
Diclofenac implicated as the main cause of vulture decline
The centre played an important role
in confirming that diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, given to
cattle to treat pain and inflammation, was the main cause of vulture mortality and
population crash in vultures. The diclofenac was extracted from the tissue samples
of vulture carcasses which were collected from different parts of the country and
its presence was estimated in collaboration with Aberdeen University, UK. It was
found that 75% of the vulture carcasses collected from various parts of the country
had "Visceral Gout". This happens when there is kidney failure and the uric acid
crystals get deposited on the visceral organs. It was established that all the vultures
which had died of visceral gout had diclofenac residues in their tissues. This strong
correlation established that at least 75% of the vulture population had died of
diclofenac poisoning and this was the major cause of decline. The diclofenac as
the major cause of vulture mortality was first established in 2003-04 by The Peregrine
Fund, a U. S. based NGO, working in Pakistan. Vultures are exposed to diclofenac
when they feed from carcasses of livestock that have died within a few days of treatment
and contain residues of the drug. The concentration of diclofenac, as low as 0.22
mg/gm of body weight, was found to be lethal to vultures.