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Feeding station installed to protect endangered white-rumped vulture

WT24 Desk

Aiming to protect the globally endangered white-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis) from its imminent extinction, a vulture feeding station has been set up for the first time in Bangladesh, UNB reports.   “Establishment of a community-based vulture feeding station is a unique move in the country to protect vultures. The vulture feeding station has been set up at Rema-Kalenga Wildlife Sanctuary in Habiganj under the White-rumped Vulture Conservation Project,” IUCN vulture investigator ABM Sarowar Alam told UNB.

Saving Asia’s critically endangered vultures from extinction, IUCN Bangladesh in collaboration with Bangladesh Forest Department has taken a project on ‘White-rumped Vulture conservation in Bangladesh: Establishment of toxic drug free Vulture Safe Zones (VSZ) and Monitoring the Population trend’. The two-year programme formally began in March 2014. Sarowar said six vulture conservation team, involving 72 people from local community, have already been formed in the area to work on vulture conservation.

“When cattle die, the team members go to the cattle owners to know whether they used toxic medicine, which is harmful to vultures, on cattle and talk to veterinary physicians,” Sarowar Alam said, adding that if they find the dead cattle are safe for vulture, they dump that at the feeding station. Two cattle have already been dumped in the feeding station of Rema-Kalenga Wildlife Sanctuary, he said, if no cattle dies during the breeding period of vultures from November to April, one or two slaughtered cows will be kept at the station each month to supplement their feeding to increase vulture population.

The vulture investigator said they are thinking to buy cows from local community aiming to make sure that the cows collected from the community are safe for vulture feeding. Two more vulture feeding stations will be set up at Rema-Kalenga during next breeding period, he said, wildlife lovers from private sector may come forward voluntarily to save vultures by giving food to vultures at the stations.

Although vulture population is disappearing fast in the country due to loss of their habitats and food crisis, vultures are still sighted in the forests of Sylhet region. A total of 51 white-rumped vultures were sighted roosting in Rema-kalenga wildlife sanctuary in Habiganj during a survey (May-June, 2014) of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

Toxic Drugs

The use of toxic veterinary drugs like Diclofenac and ketoprofen causes death to vultures. With a view to identifying the use status of toxic veterinary drugs that cause harm to the vulture, the IUCN research team recently carried out a pharmacy survey on 95 local drugstores in 11 districts of greater Sylhet and greater Mymensingh. Three different classes of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Diclofenac, ketoprofen and meloxicam) were purchased from pharmacies. Out of 95 pharmacies, 64 percent of pharmacies stocked veterinary drugs.

As active ingredient, Diclofenac, Ketoprofen and Meloxicam found to have 17 percent, 50 percent and 17 percent drugs in different surveyed stores respectively. During the survey, a total of 2 injectable brands of diclofenac, 8 injectable brands of ketoprofen and two injectable brand of Meloxicam were recorded. Diclofenac and Ketoprofen are poisonous to vulture. The survey team found banned Diclofenac drug in Trishal (Mymensingh), Taragong (Rangpur) and Syedpur (Nilphamary).

Meanwhile, the government has declared two safe zones for vultures where ‘zero tolerance’ is shown towards using ‘Diclofenac’ and other harmful veterinary drugs under article 20 (1) of  Wildlife (Conservation and Security) Act 2012. The designated areas are Sylhet, parts of Dhaka and Chittagong covering an area of 19,663.18 sq km as Vulture Safe Zone-1, and Khulna, Barisal and parts of Dhaka covering an area of 27,717.26 sq km as Vulture Safe Zone-2 (VSZ).

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