Vulture counting exercise in Gujarat begins, over 300 volunteers-forest officials involved


The two day state wide counting of vultures (vulture estimate) started today, Director of Gujarat Ecological Education and Research (GEER) Foundation, the nodal agency for the exercise of the forest department of Gujarat, R D Kamboj said.

He said that as per the last estimate conducted in 2016 there were only 999 (Nine Hundred Ninety Nine) vultures in the state.

‘In all only seven species of vultures are found in Gujarat of which 3 are migratory and 4 including white rump, gyps, long billed are the resident ones. During the estimates only the number of 4 resident species is counted,’ he said.

Kamboj said that in the exercise being conducted in all the 33 districts of Gujarat including over half a dozen where not even a single vulture was found during last estimate exercises, over 300 volunteers have been involved.

‘For the counting mostly local bird experts are involved as volunteers. They are deputed near there places of night-rest and where the carcass of dead animals is thrown. They count them early morning and during the day and the number is verified and complied to find a final figure. The compilation process after the counting exercise of two days, takes one to two months time. The final figures are traditionally announced by Forest Minister,’ he said.

He said that the number of vultures was continuously declining for past many years.

‘Till the middle of 1980s they were aplenty but in just around a decade after that during 1990s they reached the point of extinction mainly due to the rising presence of analgesic diclofenac medicine in the animal carcasses, which the vultures primarily feed on and owing to which they died in large numbers. Kidney of vultures who consumed it failed. Their numbers diminished by 95%. It was highlighted first through a study conducted in Pakistan. Though the medicine was banned in 2003-04 yet it is unfortunately used secretly. The changes in the habitat of vultures including cutting of tall trees etc also added to the decline in their numbers,’ Kamboj said.

He said that in the last estimate maximum number of vultures in Gujarat, region-wise were found in Saurashtra and the highest number of 152 was in Junagadh. Among other districts Amreli had 90, Surendranagar and Bhavnagar 86 each, Anand 73, Kutch and Banaskantha 72 each, Valsad 66, Mahesana-Sabarkantha 62 each Ahmedabad had 56 vultures.

According to the 2005 census, 2,647 vultures were reported in Gujarat. A sharp fall was noticed in the 2007 census with only 1,431 vultures were reported, while in 2012 1,043 vultures were reported. The number further declined to 999 in 2016.