The Mysterious Decline


There were 40 million white-rumped vultures and long-billed vultures in India.


The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declares, “The Indian vulture is only one step away from total extinction”.


99% of vultures in India had disapp- -eared, including 99.9% declines of white-rumped vulture.


Truth about

These unsung heroes do the dirty work of cleaning up after death. Their corrosive stomach acid allows them to consume carcasses, keeping the environment clean and controlling the spread of disease.

The Indian Gyps Vultures

Four Species are Critically Endangered


Southeast Asia (Cambodia and Myanmar) and South Asia (India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh)


Found in the open country and partly wooded lowlands, as well as cultivated areas near villages and towns.

Key Threat : Mass Poisoning
  • For years, scientists failed to understand the mysterious decline in vulture populations. How did nearly 99% of India’s vultures die and disappear?
  • Then in 2003, scientists discovered that the veterinary painkiller, diclofenac, was being used to treat cattle and livestock, and causing kidney failure in vultures consuming dead livestock that had been treated soon before their death.
  • Research concluded that the prevalence of diclofenac in cattle was directly responsible for the population crash.
Sky Burials:

For centuries, Parsi’s have held a ‘sky burial’, a final rites ceremony where the deceased are left in the open for vultures to complete their journey. This tradition is considered to be an individual’s final act of charity. Today, withthe dwindling number of vultures, Parsisare forced to change their last rites.

India’s Rabies Outbreak

India accounts for 36% of all rabies deaths globally, reporting approximately 18,000-20,000 deaths each year with an annual healthcare expense of $25 million. About 30-60% of reported rabies cases and deaths in India occurin children under the age of 15 years as bites that occur in children often go unrecognized and unreported (source: National Health Portal & World Health Organisation).

India Without Vultures :
A Health Crisis

  • In India and Nepal, cows have a sacred status for Hindus and are not eaten. Livestock carcasses are instead disposed of in large municipal dumps or in the outskirts of villages. Over time, these dumps have become the vulture’s principal source of food.
  • This rapid cleaning mechanism had been the traditional way of disposing of carcasses in the Indian subcontinent with

Vultures Consuming
of Carrion Anually

  • Today, these sites are an environmental and human hazard as carcasses putrefy in the open, giving way to disease and a rise in rabid feral dogs.

Join the flock and help save India’s Vultures


Campaigning Against

India’s vultures faced near-extinction due to the use of the toxic veterinary drug, diclofenac, to treat livestock. Responding to the BNHS campaign against the drug, the Government of India banned its veterinary use in 2006. Scientists at BNHS continue to test other drugs for safety and have highlighted two vulture-safe alternatives: meloxicam and tolfenamic acid.

Monitoring Vulture Safe Zones (VSZs)

Selected regions in India – each covering about 30,000 sq. km.– have been identified as potential Vulture Safe Zones. VSZ teams carry out awareness work at multiple levels and closely monitor the areas within 100km of major vulture colonies to ensure that the vulture food and habitats are sufficient and safe.

Vulture Breeding Programme

BNHS has set-up four breeding centres for the mostendangered vultures. Centres are equipped with purpose-built aviaries, surgery and recovery rooms, incubator and brooder facilities, laboratories, and food processing rooms.

The Vultures
Fascinating Action Plan
For India

Scientists from BNHS and BirdLife are working to:

Maintain breeding populations of 3 critically endangered vulture species to ensure against loss of these species from the wild.
Monitor vulture nesting colonies to understand population trends and highlight regions in need of protection by working with local communities.
Monitor wild and captive-release vultures with satellite telemetry to assess the environmental safety of vultures
Monitor vulture populations to study the population trends in Asia. In India, we conduct nation wide surveys using more than 15,000km of road transects every four years.
Examine dead vultures for cause of death to continuously update our knowledge on what are the most significant threats, particu- -larly among veterinary drugs.
Research the safety of veterinary drugs to identify safe alternatives to diclofenac, influence regulation and introduce vulture-safe drugs into the marketplace.
Monitor diclofenac and other veterinary drugs to quantify their levels of diclofenac in cattle carcasses available to vultures, and to visit and survey pharmacies to measure availability of different veterinary drugs.

Jatayu Conservation
Breeding Center

Situated in
Bir Shikargah Wildlife Sanctuary, Pinjore, Haryana
Founded by scientist, Dr. Vibhu Prakash of BNHS, Asia’s first breeding centre aims to release captive -bred vultures back into the wild as an insurance against extinction
782 Vultures
have hatched and fledged across 8 centers in India 378 of which have been bred at Jatayu

Life of a
Jatayu Vulture

Quarintine and Housing
Captured vultures enter a 45-day quarantine where are measured, microchipped and given a unique identity number.
Fooding and Bathing
Goat carcasses, carefully checked for diclofenac, are fed to the vultures twice a week. After feeding, vultures love to bathe.
Mating for Life
At age 3, males offer a green twig to the female. If she accepts, the pair mate for life and begin preparing the nest for the breeding season.
Artificial Incubators
To increase vulture reproductivity, a laid egg is taken to a thermo- controlled room where it is placed in artificial incubators. The eggs are turned throughout the day to ensure even temperatures on all sides for a healthy growth.
A 2-week-old nestling is swapped for the second egg. The parents begin looking after the nestling.
After 55-days of incubation, the egg hatches. The chick is fed a balanced diet of various organs, muscles and crushed bones. While the first nestling is being taken care of, the female lays the 2nd egg.
To feed the nestling, parents carry food in their crop (a digestive system near the throat). The nestling pecks at the parent’s beak which triggers the parent to regurgitate the food. The nestling pulls at the food and feeds.
Leaving the Nest
At just 4-months, a nearly fully grown vulture flaps its wings in an attempt to fly and in one such attempt, it flies off. At this point, identification bands are fitted on the young as they are taken to a separate aviary to form a new flock. Together, the flock explores the aviary and lands often at their favourite hangout spot: the water trough.
Satellite Tagging
Having identified safe habitats, we are now set to reintroduce captive- bred vultures back into the wild. Through satellite tagging, the centre will be able to track vulture movements. This information is vital to our understanding of vultures. It also allows us to pick up when a vulture is potentially injured or dead.

Vultures are extremely useful species for the Indian Environment because of their ability to locate and clean carcasses quickly and efficiently. Humans are responsible for their near extinction because of the use of vulture toxic drugs in treating cattle, and disposing off the carcasses irresponsibly making them available to vultures to feed upon. Banning of proven vulture toxic painkillers like aceclofenac, ketoprofen and nimesulide and preventing the misuse of human formulations of diclofenac, in treating cattle, is vital to save these wonderful and useful scavengers disappearing forever.

What Makes
BirdLife and

Birdlife Partners Different ?

BirdLife International is the world’s largest global partnership of conservation organisations that strive to conserve birds and all nature.

We believe that local people, working
for nature in their own places, but
connected nationally and
internationally through global Partnerships, are key to sustaining all life on this planet.


in Over




1. Conservation based on good science
2. Conservation of nature using birds as an entry point
3. Locally-driven conservation through partner organizations

Join the Flock
Birdlife International in Numbers

  • Together we are over 1 00 BirdLife Partners worldwide – one per country or territory – and growing.
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  • BirdLife Partners work with over 4,000 local groups, in more than 1,000 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, involving over 1.9 million young people.
  • The BirdLife Partnership employs nearly 8,000 staff supported by over 5,000 volunteers.

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