Promoting Community-Inclusive Approaches to Establish a Vulture Safe Zone in The Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve, India

Timeframe: 2023 - 2025
Country/Region: States of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, India
Partner: Arulagam

Vultures play a crucial role in the environment in which they live. They keep the environment clean and healthy by efficiently locating and consuming carcasses. By ridding the ground of dead animals, vultures prevent diseases from spreading to humans and animals. Out of the nine vulture species found in India, four are found in the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve in the Western Ghats in South India, which is a landscape that spreads across 5’520 km2 across the borders of three states. Out of the four, three are critically endangered and one is endangered; only a few hundred are left in the wild. Residues of banned NSAIDs (diclofenac and other equally harmful veterinary drugs) in animal carcasses, poison bait carcasses, and the continuously declining safe food sources are the major reasons for this status. Losses of vultures would have serious consequences for ecosystems and human populations alike.

Through this project, our partner, Arulagam, proposes to establish a vulture safe zone (VSZ) in the Nilgiris landscape covering 60 villages across the Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala states in India, to increase the populations of the four species of vultures found locally. The interventions proposed are based on the VSZ concept developed by the Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinctions (SAVE) initiative of the IUCN SSC Vulture Specialist Group and partners. The project will develop skills and capacity of a team of ten volunteers in monitoring vulture nests and foraging sites, monitoring sale and use of banned and other NSAIDs, promoting use of vulture safe drugs, and implementing the Action Plan for vulture conservation with the support of the stakeholders, all pre-requirements towards declaring a VSZ. The team will engage communities by supporting their cattle treatment needs using safer alternatives, by facilitating quicker compensation for cattle loss due to predator kills, and by ensuring continued availability of safe carcasses to vultures. Once a VSZ is established captive-bred vultures can be safely released to support existing wild populations and hopefully leading to the long-term recovery of the vulture populations.