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Tuesday, July 23

Population of Long-Billed Vultures in India still declining: Environment Ministry

Indian Long Billed Vulture, indian vulture, vulture population in india
Indian Long-billed vultures in Orcha, Madhya Pradesh (Image Credit: Yann Forget / Wikimedia Commons)

Despite conservation efforts, the population of the critically endangered, Long-billed vultures is declining in India. According to Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, there are only 12000 Long-billed vultures left in India as per the latest survey figures.

Answering a query in the Lok Sabha, the Ministry informed that surveys in the past showed that the population of the vultures in the country was establishing after a sharp decline during the mid-90s till 2007. However, the latest surveys show that the Long-billed vulture population is still declining.

By the year 2011, the population though very small appeared to be establishing but during the year 2015, it was noticed that the White-backed Vulture population was still stable but was still declining for Long-billed Vulture”, says a written statement from the ministry regarding the vulture population in the country.

According to estimates, India had some 40 million vultures in the early eighties. The three resident vulture species, White-backed Vulture, Long-billed Vulture and Slender-billed Vulture marked 99% decline in their population during mid-nineties. Due to the alarming decline, they were categorized as Critically Endangered by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).Their protection status in India was raised by moving them from Schedule IV to Schedule I of Wildlife Protection Act.
At present, the population figures of these resident vulture species is yet to show significant increase. Based on the latest survey carried out in the year 2015 and the results published in 2017, there were about 6000 White Backed Vultures, 12000 Long-billed Vultures and 1000 Slender-billed Vultures”, says the statement from the Ministry.

The major reason for the sharp decline in the vulture population was the wide-spread use of Diclofenac as a veterinary medicine, especially for cattle. The presence of Diclofenac in the cattle carcass, which the vultures feed on, resulted in renal failure in these birds.

Government has banned the use of the drug in 2006 to save the vulture population but apparently the Diclofenac ban was not effective due to the misuse of multi-dose vials of the drug available for human consumption. Government has brought in a new restriction in 2015 by bringing down the available vial dosage of Diclofenac for human consumption from 30 ML to 3 ML.

Answering a question on the conservation efforts, the Ministry informed Lok Sbha that eight vulture breeding centres in different states were established in the past. Moreover, four states – Haryana, Kerala, West Bengal and Uttarakhand- are also given financial support for vulture recovery programmes. According to the statement, there are eight Vulture Safe Zones in India which includes Pinjore in Haryana, Rajabhatkhawa in West Bengal, around Majuli Island in Assam, Bukswaha in Bundelkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Dudhwa National Park and Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh, Hazaribagh in Jharkhand, Central Gujarat and Saurashtra in Gujarat.


  1. I don't know if there are trials with substitutes of Diclofenac, and if they are safer for vultures. Farmers and cattle breeders, like all other human beings, look first at their own needs and probably do not even understand the impact on vultures. Banning diclofenac can never work satisfactorily since it has human use also, unless a low price substitute can be brought in the market

    1. Sunil,

      Thank for the comment. According to some studies (like this one in PLOS Biology - meloxicam can be a safer alternative to diclofenac. there were campaigns also in the past to replace dicofeanc with safer alternatives. your suggestion is right. just banning dicofenac wont be effective, promoting safer alternatives via making them cheaply available may be more effective.


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