January 12, 2007

Hooorraay! First Vulture Chick! wow

A first: Vulture bred in captivity
Geetanjali Gayatri
Tribune News Service

Panchkula, January 7
There's a reason for vulture conservationists to rejoice, the New Year's dawn, wrapped in fog and cold, brought with it the first white-backed vulture chick born in captivity at the Vulture Conservation and Breeding Centre, Pinjore.

In a programme that has put Haryana on the world map, the birth of the chick has brought with it the hope of saving vultures from imminent extinction. "The chick came as a New Year gift for the centre. This is the first success we have seen since the project of the Forest Department along with the Bombay Natural History Society began in 2004. There is a great need for in-situ as well as ex-situ conservation of vultures," Haryana Minister of Forests and Tourism Kiran Chaudhary says.

The wildlife officials, too, have reason to smile. "The egg was laid on November 10 and came from a pair of vultures from Haryana. We kept the development under wraps because two eggs were laid last year as well. However, both did not hatch much to our disappointment. We were slightly skeptical about this one also since our birds are still young," says Chief Wildlife Warden R.D. Jakati.

On the first day of the year, the officials, keeping a tab on the egg, noticed the vulture pair moving around frantically. "We were expecting a chick but were not sure if it was born since the nest is too low down. Finally, three days later, we saw some movement in the nest. Sunk low in the nest among the twigs, we saw something rise and take food from the parent vulture's beak. That's when the birth of the baby was confirmed," Mr Jakati states.

While nobody has seen the chick with naked eyes, the baby is being monitored only through the CCTV installed near the nest. "Nobody was allowed near the cage housing the nest since the egg was first noticed. The CCTV is our only window to their world. However, the CCTV does not allow zooming in which made watching the movements difficult especially when we are all excited about this birth and want to see and know as much as we can," he maintains.

While the chick will be able-bodied in a month's time, it will be able to take care of itself in three month's time. "Till then, we are keeping our fingers crossed. However, the New Year has got off to a good start and we are hoping our luck will carry through the year," another official, closely associated with the programme, says.

The programme was established as a vulture care centre in August 2001 when injured and dying vultures were brought for care. It was upgraded to a breeding centre in 2004 when the reason for the death of the birds became known. Diclofenac, the killer drug, was banned last year.

This is the first birth of the vulture in captivity. At the Centre, efforts are on to breed the white-backed, slender bill and long-billed vulture. All three are facing extinction with nearly 90 per cent of the vulture population already dead.

While Haryana is the first state to have agreed to shoulder the responsibility of breeding vultures in captivity, another breeding centre was set up in West Bengal last year.


"That's the direction in which the world should progress according to me - the direction in which we finally become freed from the label of country and become global citizens. Instead of being global citizens then - we become the same thing we started out with - being humans."


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