Environmental News from Bangladesh:
- Concerted conservation actions since 2010 have helped halt the decline in vulture populations in Bangladesh.
- The country was previously home to seven vulture species, but one — the red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus) — has now gone locally extinct, and two others are considered critically endangered.
- A key threat to the birds was the excessive use of veterinary drugs used in cattle, which proved deadly for the scavengers but have since been banned.
- Bangladesh has also declared several “vulture safe zones” across the country, where officials work with local communities to raise awareness about the importance of vultures to the environment and to protect breeding sites and habitats.
Vultures were a common sight across the Indian subcontinent until the late 1980s. But the excessive use of some veterinary drugs for cattle, which are toxic to the scavengers, and loss of habitat, led to a drastic fall in vulture numbers in the wild. By 2017, some species’ populations had fallen by 95%.
However, in Bangladesh, the populations of several vulture species have stabilized over the past few years, thanks to joint conservation efforts by the country’s forest department and the Bangladesh office of the IUCN, the global conservation authority. According to the team’s observations, the drastic decline in vulture populations has been halted in Bangladesh.
Raquibul Amin, the IUCN Bangladesh country representative, said their observations show the number of vultures since the last census in 2015 has remained almost the same. He attributed this to the government’s timely initiatives to ban the use of harmful veterinary drugs and declare several “vulture safe zones” across the country.
Although the numbers are yet to increase to healthy figures, the plunge in population, at least, has stopped, and that’s a promising sign for the country’s wildlife conservation, said Monirul H. Khan, professor of Zoology at Jahangirnagar University. He added the current scenario indicates that if the conservation efforts continue, the numbers could rise.
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