By A Staff Reporter Kathmandu, Dec. 5: The world’s first Vulture Safe Zone (VSZ) was declared in Nepal during the 11th annual general meeting of Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction (SAVE) on Thursday. SAVE is a group of 24 partners working together to save the globally threatened vultures.
The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC) and Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN) are the key partners of SAVE from Nepal. Nepal initiated a pioneering idea in the world to establish a Vulture Safe Zone in 2009. This VSZ concept originally emerged from some brilliant conservation efforts to create diclofenac-free areas using a district-by-district, province-by-province approach from West to East across the country, said a press statement issued by the SAVE.
A VSZ is an area surrounding one or more wild vulture nesting colonies, large enough to encompass the mean foraging range and completely free from diclofenac. Continuous conservation actions in Nepal have been successful in lowering the misuse of diclofenac. Professor Rhys Green, chair of SAVE, has highlighted the successful removal of diclofeanc from the nature and its impact on vulture population recovery in Nepal. He presented 14 years of data that shows a decline in sales of diclofenac in veterinary pharmacies, an increase in sales in meloxicam (the vulture-safe alternative to diclofenac) and an increase in white-rumped and slender-billed vultures.
“This is a great achievement of creating a safe environment to the threatened vulture species in Nepal and is only achieved by the integrated approach of government, conservation partners and local communities,” said Dr. Ramchandra Kandel, Director General, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation.
The Government of Nepal banned the production and use of veterinary diclofenac in 2006 and prepared and implemented the Vulture Conservation Action Plan for Nepal 2009-13 and 2015-19. "The ban on diclofenac did not bring about this positive change alone. We worked hard advocating vulture conservation and educating communities on the vulture-toxic-NSAID problem," said Krishna Bhusal, IUCN Vulture Specialist Group Member. “Our aim was to rid Nepal of diclofenac and prevent another vulture-toxic NSAID taking its place.”
“We achieved this through a programme of wide engagement with communities, local decision makers and authorities; veterinarians and farmers, local conservation organizations and national media outlets,” he added. The eventual recovery of vultures in Asia will be enhanced if it is possible to protect and retain small but key remaining vulture populations in the wild through creating Vulture Safe Zones. Following this lead, VSZs are now being implemented in Cambodia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan and in African countries too.