Be kind to the vulture

There is obviously something wrong with the health of the nation if institutions cannot diagnose the health of the vulture

By Mario
Published: Thursday 15 July 1999

T he vulture is a very patient bird. It is waiting patiently for its next flight, which may very well be into oblivion. Meanwhile, experts try and figure out what is killing the vulture. Ornithologists fear that India's vulture populations have declined in recent times. The vulture has a host of enemies today. Pesticides, as a study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment ( cse ) has shown, may be an important one. Yet there were sounds of uncertainty in some conservation circles about the study.

Wildlife lovers are not very fond of the vulture, because it has no spots, nor stripes or tusks. Among the bold and the beautiful animals worldwide it does not attract the funds set aside for nature conservation because it sticks out like a sore thumb. The vulture, therefore, cannot figure out who the enemy really is: pesticides, pollution or the plain hot air generated in lecture rooms and conference halls by 'experts'.

But it seems the alarm sounded by cse in January, when Down To Earth brought out a cover story on vultures dying due to pesticides, is finally being echoed after a gap of four to five months in corridors elsewhere. The world of conservationists has finally warned that vultures are threatened. But all that these so-called specialists have done is to mouth a lot of generalities. They talk piously of the need to set up vulture restaurants as humans have voracious appetities and are eating up all the meat available leaving nothing for our less advantaged feathered friends. They also cite pollution as one of the reasons for vultures having left urban areas. After months of hibernation they are behaving like bird-brained bureaucrats rather than responsible scientists or conservation experts. Unlike most birds they have very poor vision for they have failed to see the very real threat of pesticides to birds .

Vultures eat flesh of dead animals and occupy the same place in the food chain as humans do? The battle to save the vulture is part of the larger battle to keep the world safe for humans. While it is heartening to know that the Worldwide Fund for Nature ( wwf ) is sounding the alarm that vultures are dying, the way it is being done is laughable. It is time that wwf stopped talking till it has pinned down the problem.

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