Published On: Thu, Apr 7th, 2016

The first White-backed Vulture chicks born after 12 year long project

Staff Reporter
KARACHI: After running 12-year long programme, the captive breeding programme at Changa Manga forest, that was started in 2005 to secure a viable population of the white-backed vulture Gyps bengalensis, World Wildlife Fund for Nature(WWF) Pakistan has finally breed two chicks of endangered vulture.

In a statement issued on Thursday, WWF-Pakistan claimed that it has successfully bred the critically endangered Oriental white-backed vultures in its Changa Manga Vulture Conservation Centre recently.

“This is the first successful breeding of the species in captivity in Pakistan. Two healthy white-backed vulture chicks hatched in February this year at the facility. Both chicks are now over six weeks old continue to grow well under the watchful eyes of their parents,” stated the statement.

WWF-Pakistan launched the captive breeding programme in Changa Manga Forest Reserve in 2005, to enhance understanding of the vulture lifecycle. Land for the centre was provided by the Punjab Wildlife and Parks Department with a seed grant from the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi. Hawk Conservancy Trust (HCT) supported the construction of aviaries and has regular extended financial and technical support to vulture conservation work. The facility currently houses 15 white-backed vultures, of which two pairs bred successfully this year, while two other pairs have shown encouraging signs of breeding behavior. These chicks are being monitored and cared for by WWF-Pakistan trained staff at the Centre.

The population of the critically endangered Oriental white-backed vulture, Gyps bengalensis, has been on a decline and more than 90 per cent of its historic geographic range in Pakistan, India and Nepal has been lost since the early 1990s. This drastic fall is attributed to the use of Diclofenac Sodium, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), in livestock. Other harmful NSAIDs include Ketoprofen, Aceclofenac, and Flunixin.

Hammad Naqi Khan, Director General, WWF-Pakistan, congratulated all those involved in the successful breeding and said, “The survival of these chicks is a significant achievement in bringing this critically endangered species back from the verge of extinction. This successfully bred population will contribute in achieving a viable population, once released into the wild, and indicates the high standards of husbandry and care protocols in place for these birds at the Conservation Centre.”

WWF-Pakistan’s in-situ conservation work in the Vulture Safe Zone (VSZ) continues alongside the captive breeding programme. The VSZ was established in 2012, in Nagar Parkar, Sindh which hosts the last remaining wild population of critically endangered white-backed and long-billed vultures. The objectives to establish the Vulture Safe Zone include complete eradication of Diclofenac Sodium and other harmful NSAIDs and enhancing availability and usage of the alternate drug Meloxicam through lobbying with pharmaceuticals, veterinarians, relevant government departments and communities. Supplemented by regular vulture population assessments and livestock and NSAIDs availability assessment studies critical for conservation planning, this initiative has also established a community-based organisation (CBO) to strengthen community awareness and engagement for the protection of vultures.

WWF-Pakistan is on the Board of Saving Asian Vultures from Extinction (SAVE), a consortium of regional and international organisations partnering to save Gyps vultures in South Asia, which has developed a blueprint for the recovery of species. WWF-Pakistan’s existing vulture conservation efforts are in line with the blueprint.

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