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Endangered Oriental White-backed Vultures sees success at WWF-Pakistanís Gyps Vulture Restoration Centre

Posted on 6 March 2017

Lahore,WWF-Pakistan, for the second time in two consecutive years, successfully bred two chicks of the critically endangered Oriental white-backed vultures in its Changa Manga vulture conservation facility. The chicks, now over six weeks, are growing and developing after surviving the critical period of the initial four weeks after hatching.

Hammad Naqi Khan, Director General WWF-Pakistan, expressed his pleasure on the successful breeding of the endangered species for the second time and congratulated the team involved in the project. ďLast year our teams experiencedsuccess for the first time ever since the breeding programme was launched back in 2005. This led us to double our efforts this year and successfully bred two chicks indicating the high standards of husbandry and care protocols in place for these birds at the Conservation Centre.The addition of these chicks to the existing flock will contribute in achieving a viable population and will give this species a fighting chance to move out of the endangered species list.Ē

WWF-Pakistan launched the captive breeding programme in Changa Manga Forest Reserve in 2005, to enhance understanding of the vulture lifecycle. Land for the centre was provided by the Punjab Wildlife and Parks Department with a seed grant from the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi. Hawk Conservancy Trust (HCT) supported the construction of aviaries and has regular extended financial and technical support to vulture conservation work. The facility currently houses 19 white-backed vultures, 15 adults, 2 juveniles and 2 chicks. The chicks are being monitored and cared for by WWF-Pakistan trained staff at the Centre.

According to Dr Uzma Khan, Technical Advisor Wildlife WWF-Pakistan, the drastic declinein the Gyps bengalensis population is attributed to the use of Diclofenac Sodium, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), in livestock and other harmful NSAIDs include Ketoprofen, Aceclofenac, and Flunixin. In 2006, WWF-Pakistan successfully lobbied the Government of Pakistan to ban Diclofenac Sodium in Pakistan.

The population of the critically endangered Oriental white-backed vulture, Gyps bengalensis, has been on a decline and more than 90 per cent of its historic geographic range in Pakistan, India and Nepal has been lost since the early 1990s. This drastic fall is attributed to the use of Diclofenac Sodium, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), in livestock. Other harmful NSAIDs include Ketoprofen, Aceclofenac, and Flunixin.

WWF-Pakistanís in-situ conservation work in the Vulture Safe Zone (VSZ) continues alongside the captive breeding programme. The VSZ was established in 2012, in Nagar Parkar, Sindh which hosts the last remaining wild population of critically endangered white-backed and long-billed vultures. The objectives to establish the Vulture Safe Zone include complete eradication of Diclofenac Sodium and other harmful NSAIDs and enhancing availability and usage of the alternate drug Meloxicam through lobbying with pharmaceuticals, veterinarians, relevant government departments and communities. Supplemented by regular vulture population assessments and livestock and NSAIDs availability assessment studies critical for conservation planning, this initiative has also established a community-based organisation (CBO) to strengthen community awareness and engagement for the protection of vultures.

WWF-Pakistan is on the Board of Saving Asian Vultures from Extinction (SAVE), a consortium of regional and international organisations partnering to save Gyps vultures in South Asia, which has developed a blueprint for the recovery of species. WWF-Pakistanís existing vulture conservation efforts are in line with the blueprint.


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