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For immediate release
Vulture range countries in South Asia adopt a
regional declaration and action plan for
transboundary conservation of endangered
New Delhi, India, Saturday, 5 May, 2012 (IUCN) – In a groundbreaking step towards vulture
conservation in South Asia, the governments of Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan adopted
a Regional Declaration on the Conservation of South Asia’s Critically Endangered Vulture
Species in Delhi on 4 May 2012. The four governments agreed to take stringent measures to
remove toxic, “vulture killing” drugs from the environment, including diclofenac, identified as
the single most important cause for the catastrophic decline of vulture populations across
Recognising the need to scale-up conservation breeding and reintroduction programmes, the
governments also agreed to create transboundary Vulture Safe Zones to conserve vulture
populations in the wild. A South Asia Regional Steering Committee for Vulture Conservation
has been established to coordinate and guide these measures.
The four vulture range countries adopted the declaration at the Symposium on Developing a Regional
Response to the Conservation of South Asia’s Critically Endangered Vulture Species, held in Delhi on
3-4 May 2012. The symposium focussed on three vulture species that are now facing extinction in the
wild: the White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis), the Indian Vulture (Gyps indicus) and the
Slender-billed Vulture (Gyps tenuirostris). All three species have been included on the IUCN Red List
as Critically Endangered.
According to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, 10 of the world’s 23 vulture species are
threatened with extinction, with the most rapid declines occurring in Asia. The White-rumped Vulture
has suffered a population decline of more than 99.9 per cent in just 15 years. The Indian and Slender-
billed vulture populations dropped by 97 per cent in the same duration from 1992 to 2007.
Adopting the declaration, the four South Asian countries pledged to develop and foster active
partnerships amongst Governments, research institutions, civil society, private sector and
international organizations to further accelerate vulture conservation in the region. The
symposium was organised by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India,
and the Central Zoo Authority of India (CZA). Coorganised by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII-
Dehradun), Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS-Mumbai) and IUCN, International Union for
Conservation of Nature, the event saw the participation of some of the world’s leading vulture experts,
senior government representatives from the four countires and national and international NGOs and
members of the civil society.
Welcoming the development, Mr P R Sinha, Director, WII said, “The range countries in South Asia
have been working on vulture conservation ever since the alarming drop of the populations was
noticed. However, the realisation that one country alone would not be able to tackle such a serious
and transbounday issue was a start to this process of collective action to save the various species of
vultures under the threat of extinction.”
Dr Jagdish Kishwan, Additional Director General of Forests (Wildlife), MoEF, stressed on the
institutionalisation of a regional network where government officials, scientists and NGOs can come
together to save the vulture populations in South Asia. “There are issues and bottlenecks in the
conservation of the vulture,” he said. “All the countries in the region have to work together with clearly
defined role for each. International agencies can make this collaboration efective.”
INTERNATIONAL UNION FOR CONSERVATION OF NATURE
Reiterating the importance to work across sectors and regionally, Ms Aban Marker Kabraji, IUCN
Asia Regional Director said, “We need to work with a wide range of stakeholders, including the
private sector, and at regional scale to achieve long term recovery of the declining vulture population.
IUCN can create the platform for multi-stakeholder engagement at the regional scale. We hope that
this symposium will lead to the endorsement of a regional declaration on vulture conservation and
that it will catalyze more collaboration among the range states. We hope that we will be able to
access international funding to support the critical conservation actions required in the four vulture
Support for such a collective regional effort for a comprehensive programme on conserving vultures
was pledged by Mr B S Bonal, Member Secretary, CZA. “CZA has encouraged 5 zoos across the
country to develop breeding programmes through financial support for the establishment of ex-situ
facilities. CZA has also provided technical support to the vulture programme by organizing workshops
for all stakeholders in Pinjore between 2006 and 2011. Accomplishments must be replicated at a
regional scale, bringing together governments, relevant organizations and local communities. As
borders do not exist in the wildlife world, so must they not divide our efforts to restore populations
across boundaries, particularly between the 4 range countries of Bangladesh, India, Nepal and
As scavengers, vultures have an important ecological role and these population declines have
serious consequences for humans and the environment. Mr Chris Bowden, Co-Chair of the IUCN
Vulture Specialist Group (part of the larger IUCN Species Survival Commission) drove the message
home about the consequences of a decline in vulture populations. “A single vulture would consume 3
kilograms of meat a week. If we consider the fact that nearly 99 per cent of the 40 million vultures in
South Asia have disappeared, that leaves us with 10 million tonnes of putrefying meat lying around
every year causing enormous environmental and health hazards,” he said.
The decline in vulture populations throughout the region has been directly attributed to the veterinary
use of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac, ingested by vultures consuming carcasses
of cattle that had recently been treated with the drug. Diclofenac causes renal failure and death for
vultures and due to the strength of the drug and the tendency of vultures to feed in large groups.
Research has shown that just one in 760 livestock carcasses needs to contain diclofenac to cause
the population decline that has been observed. Despite a manufacturing ban in Bangladesh, India,
Nepal and Pakistan and a ban of its sale and veterinary use in India, research shows that this drug is
still affecting vulture populations in Asia. Researchers at the symposium pointed out that while the
veterinary use of the drug has been banned, it is still legal for use on humans and is sold in large
multi-dose vials. As a result it continues to be purchased by vets and livestock owners and used
illegally for veterinary purposes.
One of the most important outcomes of the symposium was an agreement to take measures to
prevent the sale of these multi-dose vials of human diclofenac. The governments also agreed to
restrict the use of other veterinary drugs that are known to be toxic to vultures including ketoprofen
Experts also stressed the need for large scale awareness campaigns with the civil society and the
private sector, particularly the pharmaceutical industry. “The cooperation of the pharmaceutical
industry is needed to prevent the use of multi-dose vials of human diclofenac for veterinary use and to
conduct further research and development on products that do not harm the vulture population. We
have to understand that the social and environmental costs of the disappearance of vultures are
unimaginably higher compared to any extra paisa that we may spend on manufacturing or buying
drugs,” said Mr Homi R Khusrokhan, President of BNHS and member of Saving Asia’s Vultures
from Extinction (SAVE). He stressed that in order to make vulture safe zones more effective, pre-
testing of carcasses meant for feeding the birds in these areas is essential. “It is also imperative that
there is dissemination of information regarding these drugs and their impact on vultures to vets,
pharmacies and other relevant people in the countries of the region,” he added.
INTERNATIONAL UNION FOR CONSERVATION OF NATURE
While there are still many rough edges to iron out, participants in the meeting feel this is significant
step towards a regional collaboration that can bear fruit. “The idea of this symposium and the steering
committee is to have impacts at two levels. While the countries can now strive to look at vulture
conservation from a transboundary perspective, such as creating vulture safe zones across
boundaries, it will also be a collective effort in generating resources,” said Dr Scott Perkin, Head,
IUCN Regional Biodiversity Conservation Programme, Asia.
According to the organisers, the steering committee is the beginning of a larger process of
formulating proposals for large funds to work on vulture conservation in South Asia. They also aim
highlight the issue at the Eleventh Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD
COP 11) to be held in Hyderabad, India, in October 2012.
Notes to editors
For more information or to set up interviews and audio visual material, please contact:
Dr J S Rawat, In-Charge, IUCN India Country Office
Tel: +91 11 26257742, Mobile: +91 98188 50123
IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our
most pressing environment and development challenges.
IUCN works on biodiversity, climate change, energy, human livelihoods and greening the world
economy by supporting scientific research, managing field projects all over the world, and bringing
governments, NGOs, the UN and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice.
IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, with more than 1,200
government and NGO members and almost 11,000 volunteer experts in some 160 countries. IUCN’s
work is supported by over 1,000 staff in 45 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and
private sectors around the world.
INTERNATIONAL UNION FOR CONSERVATION OF NATURE
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