Saturday, 29 January, 2022
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EDITORIAL

Clean Feed To Save Vultures



DB Chaudhary of Kawasoti Municipality-13 Laukhani of East Nawalparasi is the only man in the village who introduced the concept of Jatayu Restaurant to clean feed and conserve the vultures threatened by poisoned cattle carcasses. Vultures in Nepal feed on the unmanaged dead cattle and in this way help keep the environment clean. But carcasses infested with toxic chemicals can be deadly for the birds. It has been 15 years since Chaudhary has been feeling chemical-free food to the large fliers. His vulture friendly initiative has been a success story. People can shine with distinct work when they have a special zeal and commitment for the area they have chosen. There are very few people who join the conservation campaign in Nepal in a dedicated manner. Chaudhary is one of them and deserves kudos for his efforts.

The vulture restaurant supplies clean food to vultures and protects them from the exposure to toxic food. Chaudhary has built a cowshed which shelters abandoned and old cattle. These cattle are taken care of and when they die, they become the food of the vultures. In the past vultures used to die in large numbers after feeding on carcasses of cattle that were treated with very toxic veterinary drug Diclofenac. Toxic residue of the drug used to be present in the cattle carcasses and when the vultures fed on them, they died in large numbers. Scientific studies and lab tests proved that drug residue in the dead animals were taking some vulture species in Nepal and India towards the brink of extinction. Chaudhary’s vulture restaurants wanted to save the large birds from the danger of toxic carcasses. In addition, in the Gaushala area, which lies under the Vulture Conservation Centre (Jatayu Restaurant) the project aims to produce organic manure from cow dung in the coming days.

While launching a campaign for vulture conservation through clean feeding one and a half decades ago, there were about 17 vulture nests in the Laukhani area, which have now reached 64. Up to 72 vultures of seven species used to come to the restaurant during those days but now the number has increased to 334 of eight species. The vulture conservation initiative, which started from a small scale, is now preparing to expand. Some 50 hectares of land in the intermediate community forest area have been allocated by the Chitwan National Park Office for this work. Operation of vulture restaurant is a major component of this venture. The establishment of the vulture feeding scheme has seen more supporters and conservation activists joining the initiative. Chaudhary says that those people who opposed the idea of bird conservation in the past have now joined the campaign. He sums up the changes he has seen in his conservation efforts thus, “Even a river changes course in 12 years, as a Nepali proverb says, and the same has happened to me here.”

The government initiative in vulture conservation has been an inspiration to the efforts taken at the local level. A vulture captive breeding centre has been established at Kasara of Chitwan. Ten pairs of vultures from the breeding centre have been kept in a temporary cage constructed in the restaurant area. Three of the pairs are breeding their chicks in the temporary cage. When the vultures are released, a satellite tag is attached on their wings to monitor their activities. Monitoring showed that the birds flew as far as Pakistan via India. The white-rumped, slender-billed and red-headed vultures are endangered mainly due to the deaths caused by toxic chemicals found in cattle carcasses.