Project History & Aims
Vultures are key species in the ecosystems where they occur, consuming more dead animals than other scavengers and controlling the spread of disease and surprisingly extremely fussy about keeping clean after eating!
Wild vultures in Pakistan and India have been seriously affected by the use of the veterinary drug diclofenac which becomes toxic to vultures if they eat a dead animal that has been recently treated with the drug. In many areas the population has crashed almost to the point of extinction. The drug has now been banned but large quantities still remain in circulation and large human-use vials are purchased and administered illegally to animals.
The Gyps Vulture Restoration Project is a vital step to secure a future for these birds in Asia. Set up in 2004 the initial project aim was to secure viable populations of these vultures in a safe and protected environment.
Updates from Pakistan
The most recent highlight was the successful fledging of two chicks at the Changa Manga conservation breeding centre. This was a real boost to the team, but it was not without some drama. Just when everything looked to be going well, with two chicks hatched, the entire nest with the younger chick fell out of the tree. White-backed vulture nests are known to fall out of trees but thanks to some very quick thinking by the staff at the centre, the young chick was housed in a dry box (it was pouring with rain) whilst the remains of the nest were put back into a nest tray which was hoisted back into the tree. The chick was checked over – amazingly it had suffered no obvious injuries – and put back in the nest. Fortunately, the parents returned to the nest within 15 minutes and continued to raise the chick, which fledged successfully. The older chick fledged without incident.
Away from the centre and in the Vulture Safe Zone in southeast Pakistan, in Sindh Province, the project was fortunate to receive funding from the Disney Conservation Fund. This helped pay for a new staff member there and continue the efforts to remove diclofenac from the environment, improve livestock husbandry methods and continue the education/outreach work.
Updates from Africa
Elsewhere in the International Vulture Programme, a large amount of effort and resources are going into the development of poison response kits. These kits are distributed to field staff in southern Africa and equip them to deal with poisoning events when they happen and reduce wildlife (particularly vulture) casualties. This work is being developed and extended with in-country partners. Fieldwork also started on a new project for the critically endangered hooded vulture. This is a joint project in partnership with the University of KwaZulu-Natal, The Endangered Wildlife Trust and Hawk Mountain (USA) and is investigating breeding biology, habitat availability and possible conservation management options.
2017 saw ongoing fieldwork continue and expand within the three main International Vulture Programme areas: the extension of poison response activities in southern Africa and the provision of Poison Response Kits, the Hooded Vulture project and continued development of the Vulture Safe Zone in Pakistan.
How is Banham Zoo supporting the GYPS Restoration Project?
In 2017 Banham Zoo donated £4000 to the GYPS RESTORATION PROJECT.
A total of £40,800 has been donated by Banham Zoo since 2007.
For more information please visit: https://www.hawk-conservancy.org/conservation-research/overseas/
Photos courtesy of www.hawk-conservancy.org