According to the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), three nests of the critically endangered red-headed vulture were found this month in Chhep Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia.
The population of the species is reported to be less than 50 in Cambodia. Hence, the new discovery raises hope that conservation effort may help save the species from possible extinction.
• Globally, the population of vultures is declining at an alarming rate.
• Three vulture species of Cambodia - Red-Headed, Slender-Billed and White-Rumped - are all listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List as critically endangered, indicating a very high risk of extinction in the wild.
• Cambodia supports the largest population of vultures in Southeast Asia, however, there are only a few hundred vultures left in the country.
• India is home to four critically endangered vulture species, the red-headed, White-Rumped, Long-Billed and Slender-Billed, two near threatened species- Bearded and Himalayan Griffon and one endangered species-the Egyptian vulture.
• The Cinereous vulture, a wintering migrant to India from Europe, is also facing the threat of extinction.
• According to the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), the decline of these scavenging birds that help in maintaining the ecological balance in nature is due to the extensive use of diclofenac in treating cattle.
• The vultures that consumed the carcasses of animals treated with diclofenac died with symptoms of kidney failure.
• Increased levels of hunting, forest loss and land conversion, land encroachment and selective logging have also negatively impacted the species through the loss of nesting sites and reduction in prey availability.
Save or Saving Asia's Vultures from Extinction is aimed at conservation of the species in India.
As a part of the initiative, the BNHS is breeding endangered vulture species in captivity in three centres in India.
It is also later planning their reintroduction into the wild.
The Wildlife Conservation Society, on the other hand, has employed six community members to protect the nests of these vultures, as a part of the Bird’s Nest Protection Programme.