Rapid population declines of Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) and red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus) in India


Vibhu Prakash, Bombay Natural History Society, Hornbill House, S. B. Singh Road, Mumbai 400 023, India.
Email: jatayuprakash@sify.com


Since the early 1990s, large and rapid population declines of three species of vulture (Gyps spp.) endemic to south Asia have occurred on the Indian subcontinent and have led to these species being listed by IUCN as critically endangered. Evidence of rates of population decline, cause of death and toxicity is consistent with these declines being caused by poisoning of vultures through the ingestion of tissues from livestock treated with the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac. In this paper, analysis of repeated surveys in and near protected areas widely spread across India shows that populations of two other vulture species, Egyptian vulture Neophron percnopterus and red-headed vulture Sarcogyps calvus, have also declined markedly and rapidly, but probably with a later onset than Gyps vultures in the same region. The declines continued at least up to 2003. It is recommended that these two species are considered for inclusion in the IUCN Red List and for urgent remedial conservation measures. Research is needed to determine whether or not the principal cause of these declines is diclofenac poisoning and to establish population trends in other scavenging birds in the Indian subcontinent.