By Anjali Lukose
The first vulture conservation breeding centre in western India is set to come up in Thane district, with Maharashtra’s forest department recently clearing a proposal by the Bombay Natural History Society for the same.
“Besides protecting vultures in their natural environment, we also wanted to conserve them ex-situ as their population has declined rapidly. We are looking at a five-acre plot in Dahanu to create the facility. We will also support BNHS’ plan to establish a smaller centre for vultures at Malabar Hill in Mumbai with the help of the Parsi community,” said Sarjan Bhagat, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) and chief wildlife warden.
The centre will allow vultures to breed within an aviary, from where they will be later released into the wild. The centre will have 25 pairs each of the long-billed and white-backed vulture species.
BNHS will bring young nestlings or a year-old birds and let them mate when they attain adulthood. Vultures start breeding when they are six years old. The first egg laid will be taken away and artificially incubated in a table-top incubator. After laying their first egg, vultures lay again in 3-4 weeks. The second egg will be allowed to incubate naturally.
“We do this to increase our chances of conservation,” said Vibhu Prakash, principal scientist and deputy director of BNHS. “Population of vultures was four crore in the early 80s, but now there are less than one lakh vultures in the country. If we don’t conserve them now, it will be difficult to save them from extinction.”
In each aviary, 24 birds of a single species will be housed. The biggest aviary will be 100-ft long, 40-ft wide, 20-ft high and have rough perches, nest ledges and logs and nest cots where vulture can learn to build their own nests. The vultures will have no human contact and goat meat and water will be provided through special sliding food hatches.
The technical support and day-to-day running will be managed by BNHS, while the funding and land will be provided by the forest department. The projects will cost approximately Rs 1 crore a year for the initial period of four years.
BNHS already runs three such breeding centres in Pinjore in Haryana, Rajabhatkhawa in West Bengal and Rani in Assam in association with the respective state governments.