Coimbatore: 'Arulagam', the Coimbatore-based environmental NGO, plans to take forward its work on vulture conservation in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve through an innovative initiative termed, 'Wildlife-Friendly Milk Production' that would develop a series of innovative hygienic dairy products.
Vultures, birds of prey, play an important role in food webs and in socio-cultural systems. Vultures consume dead animals and decaying carcasses, thereby keeping the environment clean and healthy. Until the mid- 1990s, vultures soared majestically in the skies but not anymore.
"Vultures' population has declined mainly because their food is unintentionally poisoned by the veterinary drug. 'Diclofenac' a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (Nsaid)' is administered to cattle for inflammation and pain. The use of diclofenac in veterinary practice was banned in 2006, after it was found to be detrimental to vultures, and the related gazette notification was issued in 2008.
In addition to diclofenac, other Nsaid such as ketoprofen, flunixin, nimuseloides and aceclofenac have also been proved to be equally harmful to vulture species.
A vulture-safe alternative drug, meloxicam, is now widely available. But usage of harmful drugs in veterinary practice is evident," said Secretary of the NGO, S. Bharathidasan.
To conserve vultures, 'Arulagam' is now establishing a safe zone for this big bird in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve by improving the vulture population to a level that is sustainable in the long-term and eliminating harmful drugs from the food chain of the vultures.
The NGO has initiated conservation measures to safeguard these birds with the guidance and active support of the Tamil Nadu Forest department and Animal Husbandry department.
These measures include withdrawing of harmful drugs and conducting awareness-raising events such as, signature campaigns and public rallies and having gram sabha resolutions passed.
"To capitalize on the success enjoyed by these efforts, continued hard work is required as vultures are slow breeders and one pair lays only one egg each year. At least 800 pairs of vultures are needed to sustain each species; the current population in the Nilgiri Biosphere reserve is just about 120 pairs all together. It is evident that a concerted effort is needed to save this population," he added.
The Ngo seeks to attain this objective by motivating farmers and milk-producing companies in the region to adopt better animal husbandry practices. To achieve this, 'Arulagam' proposes to carry out this initiative, 'Wildlife-Friendly Dairy Farming'.
As a part of it, harmful drugs usage will be eliminated and the NGO will provide cattle owners training in milk production more hygienically, animal husbandry and fodder and draught management.
"We will promote wildlife -friendly dairy products such as ghee, lassi, and ice-cream which will result in benefits accruing to all stakeholders.
We also hosted Dr Sam Tarrant, an expert from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the UK's largest nature conservation NGO, for a month. Dr. Tarrant visited vulture safe zone site in Nilgiris and interacted with the cattle owners, youth and general manager, the Nilgiris district, Cooperative Milk Producers Union Ltd., and identified the opportunities," said Bharathidasan....