In the world of avifauna, vulture seems to be one of the most ill-fated and ignored birds which is perhaps judged by its feathers with bold head and neck, not by its stomach. And what is a matter of unfortunate is that, when it flies down to forage food to satisfy the pangs of stomach, it is often found feeding on fatal dish. This fatal dish is one of the major causes of rapid decline of its population. Going by the large scale mortality of this endangered bird in Assam following the food poisoning case, it appears to be the unintended destiny for the large feathered friend which is fast vanishing from the Indian sky.
The list of vulture’s tragic death due to food poisoning has become too long. The recent two cases of food poisoning-one in Chhaygaon and other in Rani- which claimed 123 vultures should be an eye opener. It needs a period without a delay. The first case came to light on March 17 when locals spotted over 100 carrion eaters lying lifeless at Chhaygaon which was followed by the collapse of over 23 vultures on April 14 at Rani. Dead vultures were of Himalayan Griffon species, the second largest Old World vulture after the cinereous vulture.
Expressing deep concern over the death of the scavenging birds, Sachin Ranade, senior centre manager of Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre, Rani lamented: Carcass poisoning is a matter of serious concern as chance of mortality of number of birds is always high because of vultures’ habit of devouring carcass in large group. Notably, red headed vulture is a solitary feeder that prefers to feed alone or in pairs. Equally worthwhile to note is that female breeds single egg every year. So, end of vulture in such magnitude is mammoth loss to the natural and social environment. While incubation period is two months, chick requires five months to be independent and to be mature it needs five years.
The scientist had been emphatic on taking the food poisoning case with seriousness considering the breeding habit of the bird in particular. “10 years will be needed to get vultures 100 in numbers which necessitates the urgency of the matter”. Ranade observed and added that “Assam has serious poisoning issues”.
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