Research and training
Safety testing of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug Meloxicam was carried out on the White-backed and Long-billed vultures at the centre during 2005. The testing was jointly conducted by BNHS, IVRI and Haryana Forest Department. It was done in three phases: In Phase I, Meloxicam was administered to vultures orally; in Phase II, it was administered to other scavenging birds and in Phase III, the vultures were fed on Meloxicam treated buffalo meat. Blood samples were collected 48 hours after feeding. There was no adverse reaction to the drug. No significant changes were noticed in the haematological and biochemical parameters either. This experiment gave strong evidence that Meloxicam is totally safe for vultures and other scavenging birds. It is known to be as effective to cattle as diclofenac is and has hardly any side effects.
Vulture Monitoring and Surveillance
One of the main activities of the vulture centre has been nation-wide surveillance and monitoring of vulture populations and colonies. Annual nation wide surveys have been an integral part of the project since its inception, as without the data provided by these observations, it is impossible to know the extent or spatio-temporal variations of the declines in India. The annual surveys conducted have provided valuable data on the degree and geographical extent of the declines. The latest survey carried out in 2007 has showed that populations of three species of Gyps vulture continue to decline precipitously, with White-backed vulture declining at the catastrophic rate of approximately 42.3% per year and the Long-billed and Slender-billed vultures at the rate of over 17% per year.
Workshop on tissue extraction and ELISA based analysis of Diclofenac
The workshop was held at the centre from 28th April to 6th May . The main resource persons were Dr. Mark Anthony Taggart from University of Aberdeen, UK, and Dr. Mohini Saini from IVRI. The participants were the researchers from BNHS and IVRI. The main objective of the workshop was to impart training on the ELISA (Enzyme Linked Immuno-Sorbant Assay) based analysis of diclofenac which will help in determining whether an animal carcass has diclofenac in the tissue or not. This will help in making sure that the food offered to vultures is free of diclofenac. The workshop gave attendees a practical, highly interactive, hands-on experience of the laboratory based techniques that could be used to both extract and analyse diclofenac in animal tissues. Such work is relevant to the ongoing long term conservation and protection of critically endangered Gyps sp. of vultures within India.
Workshop for establishment of ex-situ conservation centres for vultures in Indian Zoos
The WII organised a three days workshop for ‘Establishment of ex-situ conservation Centres for Vultures in Indian Zoos’ at Pinjore from 1-3 November 2006 in collaboration with the BNHS and the Haryana Forest Department. The CZA, the apex regulatory body of Government of India for keeping animals and birds in captivity, sponsored this workshop.
The major objective of the workshop was to train the participants in developing a project proposal for the proposed conservation breeding centres in the four zoos identified by Government of India.
These zoos are:
- Van Vihar, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
- Nehru Zoological Garden, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
- Nandan Kanan Zoo, Bhubaneshwar, Orissa,
- Sakkarbaug Zoo, Junagadh, Gujarat.
The main resource persons for the workshop were drawn from Haryana Forest Department, VCBC, Pinjore, WII and IVRI.
Training in captive care and management of vultures imparted by the centre
The centre now has gained more than 8 years experience in the captive management and care of resident Gyps species of vultures; it is recognised by the CZA as the coordinating institution for the conservation breeding of vultures in the country. It has been imparting training to various stakeholders in conservation breeding programme.
A team of six staff of Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre, Nepal, including the Project Manager, vulture keepers and an Assistant Wildlife Conservation Officer, Chitwan National Park, came for training at the centre in August 2008.
Training of VCBC NepalTeam
They were showed the centre and were explained the functioning of the centre in detail. The birds and aviaries were shown through CCTV monitors and identification of the three species of vultures was explained. Data collection and recording was demonstrated.
Catching of birds at the centre was demonstrated and their processing like ringing, microchipping, morpho-metrics, moulting patterns was explained to them.
Zoo Officials from Sakkarbaug Zoo, Gujarat, Van Vihar, Madhya Pradesh, Nandan Kanan, Orissa and Nehru Zoological Park, Andhra Pradesh were imparted training in captive breeding, vulture husbandry care and captive management.
A visit to the centre by In-service Officers and Officer Trainees has become part of the various technical courses conducted by the country’s premier forest training colleges – Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy, Dehradun, Uttranchal and State forest Training Institutes.
Batches of officers and field staff regularly visit the centre. Students of Master’s course as well as Forest Officer’s refreshers course conducted by the WII, visit the centre as part of their ex-situ training module.
The Future Plans
- The ultimate aim of the conservation breeding programme is to reintroduce vultures in the wild. The centre, in the coming years, will endeavour to create facilities and breed vultures in good numbers for the success of the release programme.
- Construction of a new colony aviary, eight breeding aviaries and a CCTV monitor cum interpretation room is proposed.
- Monitoring of identified release sites will be taken up to make sure there is enough food and habitat available for the released vultures. It would be totally ensured that there is no diclofenac used for treating livestock in at least 10 km radius of the released sites, prior to release.
The release programme will commence after the year 2012. The birds born at the centre will be kept for two years and then will be released in the pre-monitored sites. The birds will be released in flocks of 20 with a few wild caught adults which will act as guide birds. The released birds will be fitted with satellite tags and will be constantly monitored.
The Hon’ble Chief Minister, Haryana soft released the vultures into aviary on 13-11-2015 at this centre. The Hon’ble Minister of State, MoEF&CC alongwith Hon’ble Chief Minister, Haryana released the vultures into wild on 03-06-2016 at this centre, the activity being the first of its kind.