Wildlife board meets, calls for wider reforms
prime minister (pm) Manmohan Singh has urged the Union ministry of agriculture (moa) to take steps for saving the few vultures left in the country. During a meeting of the National Board of Wildlife (nbw) on March 17, 2005, Singh called upon the moa to phase-out diclofenac, a drug believed to cause poisoning in vultures that feed on dead livestock treated with it.
Populations of three vulture species, Gyps bengalensis, G indicus and G tenuirostris have declined rapidly due to exposure to diclofenac, according to a 2004 study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology . Surveys indicate an annual loss of 22-50 per cent for G bengalensis and G indicus. "Since the pm has intervened, the decision will be implemented. We too will lobby," says Nita Shah, scientist, vulture advocacy programme, Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai.
The nbw also took some important decisions regarding India's dwindling tiger population. Singh decided to set up a task force to assess the current tiger population. Board members agreed that the pugmark method of counting tigers was flawed. Instead, they decided to use a new digitised method being developed by Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India in reserves across the country. But experts believe the use of any single method is wrong (see Down To Earth, 'Maneaten', March 15, 2005, p 26).
Another crucial issue discussed was the water crisis in Rajasthan's Keoladeo National Park. "As the matter is in court, no decision was taken. But Singh urged that water should be provided to the park at any cost," said an nbw member. The pm also approved the setting up of a New Delhi-based wildlife crime prevention and control bureau; it will have five to six regional offices. In addition, the Union ministry of environment and forests will have two separate secretaries: for wildlife and forest and for environment.