Vulture die-off in India

Subject: Vulture die-off in India
Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2000 12:23:27 +1000

From: Ian  on 01/06/2000 12:23 PM

Subject:  Vulture die-off in India

In view of recent postings on vegies and others, it seems that not all
carnivores are doing well.  The following posting from the ProMed list may be of
interest to birding-ausers.

Date: Tue, 30 May 2000 22:50:53 -0400 (EDT)
From: ProMED-mail <>
Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> Vulture die-off - India

A ProMED-mail post

[I have been getting reports of this serious situation for some weeks but
finding someone able and willing to open the discussion on it has been not
without problems. But fortunately we now have someone in Andrew Cunningham
who has hands-on knowledge. - MHJ]

Date: Tuesday, May 30, 2000 10:36AM
From: Andrew Cunningham <>

I recently spent three weeks investigating vulture mortality in India at
the request of the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and in
collaboration with, and funded by, the Royal Society for the Protection of
Birds (RSPB). Over the past ten years, populations of _Gyps_ spp. vultures
have declined catastrophically - in at least some areas their numbers have
been reduced by about 96% - and the decline is still continuing. Where
vultures remain, many show signs of illness, such as prolonged periods of
neck drooping. These birds invariably die, with adults, juveniles and
nestlings all being affected. Previously believed to be possibly due to the
use of pesticides, current investigations have shown that a more likely
cause of the decline is infectious disease. Work is in progress by myself,
the RSPB, the BNHS and other Indian scientists to investigate this further.

At the moment there is little more to say on this matter without being
overly speculative. I would, however, recommend to ProMED-mail readers the
excellent paper on this subject published by Dr Vibhu Prakash last year.
The citation for this paper, which describes and reviews the problem, and
which puts forward (with critiques) the various hypotheses, is as follows:

Prakash, V. (1999) Status of vultures in Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur,
Rajasthan, with special reference to population crash in _Gyps_ species.
Journal, Bombay Natural History Society. 96(3): 365-378.

Finally, there is a report of the vulture problem on a newspaper webpage to
which you might wish to refer your readers:


- --
Andrew A. Cunningham BVMS MRCVS
Veterinary Pathologist
Institute of Zoology
Zoological Society of London
Regent's Park

[The news report is well worth reading. An emergency conference is being
planned for later this year in India. For those unused to vultures -- they
are normally resistant to many diseases, by the nature of their lives, and
therefore die-offs usually follow toxic exposures. It would be worth
knowing which other scavenger bird species, eg corvidae, are affected or
those further back in the feed chain. The public health aspects of this
will be obvious. - Mod.MHJ]


Ian Temby, 1999 Churchill Fellow

Wildlife Damage Control Officer

Secretary/Treasurer, Birds Australia Parrot Association

Flora & Fauna Program

Department of Natural Resources and Environment

4/250 Victoria Parade



Phone          613 9412 4429
Fax       613 9412 4586

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