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First success for vulture breeding programme

Carrion breeding

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The RSPB is celebrating the first successful captive breeding of a slender-billed vulture in India.

The charity, with help from the Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation, began a campaign to outlaw use of the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac in cattle, which causes severe kidney failure in the birds of prey. It set up three breeding centres and stocked them with rescued birds.

Two slender-billed vultures have been successfully reared along with three Oriental white-backed vultures. The charity hopes to breed long-billed vultures next year.

fledgling vulture

Chris Bowden, who runs the RSPB's Asian vulture programme, said: “This news is a huge boost to those of us fighting to save Asian vultures, which face extinction in the wild within the next decade unless we can prevent the veterinary use of Diclofenac." The Indian government is also supporting the breeding programme. An aviary in Nepal is nearing completion and will house 44 white-backed vultures who will hopefully breed.

Vulture numbers in India have collapsed by 97 per cent since the early 90s. The white backed vulture numbers have fallen in that period from 30 million to just 11,000, and numbers continue to fall by 40 per cent a year. There are believed to be about 1,000 slender-billed vultures left in the wild.

Diclofenac has now been banned for use in cattle, but human versions are still on sale.

They may not be the most beautiful of creatures, but are highly regarded in Indian culture and do a valuable job in cleaning up carrion. They of course also help Parsees dispose of their dead in Towers of Silence.

Bootnote

The Register's vulture logo, known hereabouts as Reg, is based on an African vulture.

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