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Side Event

The South Asia Regional Vulture Recovery Programme

IUCN Asia Regional Office in collaboration with the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and SAVE (Saving Asia's Vultures from Extinction)

Date and Time
10 October 2012 13:15 - 14:45

Eleventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 11)

Over the last 20 years, South Asia has witnessed the precipitous decline of three vulture species: the white-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis); the Indian vulture (Gyps indicus); and the slender-billed vulture (Gyps tenuirostris). Once numbering in the tens of millions, the combined population of these three species has now been reduced by 99 per cent. All three species are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List and face imminent extinction in the wild. The decline in Gyps vultures has been caused by diclofenac, a veterinary drug which is ingested by the birds when eating the carcasses of recently-treated animals. Research has shown that the consumption of even a very small amount of this drug can lead to renal failure and death in Gyps species. The loss of the region’s vultures has resulted in the loss of a critically important ecosystem service. Animal carcasses which were once consumed by vultures are now being left to rot, leading to an enormous waste disposal problem and to a growing range of health concerns. There have been dramatic increases in the numbers of feral dogs as well as a growing number of reports of dog attacks and a higher risk of rabies. Other impacts include groundwater contamination and loss of income for farmers, whose fields can become unusable for up to three weeks at a time as a result of rotting carcasses. The loss of vultures has also had severe social impacts on some communities, such as the Parsis, who traditionally offered their dead to the vultures in “Towers of Silence”. This side event will present a summary of recent NGO and government efforts across the region to conserve South Asia’s Gyps vultures, and highlight the priority actions that are still required. It will describe the activities of SAVE (Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction), a consortium of ten national and international NGOs, which has spearheaded efforts to phase out diclofenac, to launch conservation breeding programmes and to create “Vulture Safe Zones” - 100km radius areas in which intensive efforts are made to remove diclofenac from the environment, in preparation for future vulture releases. The event will also highlight the efforts of the four range Governments, including an ongoing initiative facilitated by IUCN to develop a South Asia Regional Vulture Conservation Project for submission to GEF. This builds on the recent adoption in 2012 of a Regional Declaration on vulture conservation by the Governments of India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, which has provided an unprecedented opportunity to foster co-ordination and collaboration among the four countries. All these efforts respond directly to Aichi Target 12 on preventing species extinctions, and to Aichi Target 14 on the conservation of ecosystem services essential for human health. Speakers at the event will include: Mr PR Sinha, Director, Wildlife Institute of India Mr B.S. Bonal, Director, Central Zoo Authority of India Dr Asad Rahmani, Director, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) Dr Chris Bowden, RSPB and Co-chair of the IUCN/SSC Vulture Specialist Group Government representatives from Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh Mr Homi Khusrokhan, President, BNHS Dr. Hum Gurung, CEO, Bird Conservation Nepal Dr Scott Perkin, IUCN Asia Regional Biodiversity Conservation Programme