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Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka to begin the first synchronised vulture survey on Feb 24

White-rumped and long-billed vultures spotted in Sigur in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve buffer zone during a previous bird survey

The Kerala Forest and Wildlife Department, with its counterparts in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, is preparing to organise the first synchronised vulture survey in selected regions of the Western Ghats on February 24, 25 and 26.

Also read | Why vultures are important to protect nature

Need for synchronisation

“Every year the Forest departments in the three states were organising separate surveys at different timing to count the remaining vulture population in South India,” says Dinesh Kumar, Additional Deputy Conservator of Forest, Wayanad wildlife sanctuary. But this often resulted in duplication of counting the avian population because the surveys were conducted in different timings, he said.

But he added that a tripartite coordination meeting held in Mudumalai Tiger reserve in Tamilnadu two weeks ago decided to organise the first synchronised vulture survey in Western Ghats to avoid the duplication.

The survey would simultaneously be organised in the three forest divisions, including the Wayanad wildlife sanctuary, and the South and North forest divisions. It would be conducted after dividing the Wayanad landscape, where the bird species were frequently sighted, into 10 locations. Each of the locations would be monitored by a five-member team, comprising a vulture expert; a forest beat officer, one or two volunteers and a forest watcher, he said.

Wayand wildlife sanctuary

Wayanad wildlife sanctuary, contiguous to the tiger reserves of Nagarhole and Bandipur of Karnataka and Mudumalai of Tamil Nadu, is the lone region where vultures thrive in the State. The sanctuary harbours nearly 120-150 white-rumped vultures and less than 25 red-headed vultures. The occasional sightings of long-billed vultures have also been reported in the sanctuary.

Also read |Kerala to have its own regional red list of birds

Vultures faced a catastrophic population decline during the 2000s when the species was exposed to the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac used in cattle as a painkiller. South Asia had about four crore white-rumped vultures until the end of the nineties. But the population has come down to less than 10,000 .

The reason for the survival of the Wayanad population is that they have never been exposed to the drug.

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