Throughout the state during our vulture survey, whenever we have interacted with the local people about the sighting of any vultures in their areas, majority of them have a common answer ‘Yes, we did but many years ago’.
Unfortunately this answer itself carries many questions to the bird researchers. For many, vultures are considered as outcast and dirty birds due to their scavenging nature and habitat selection but there is something deep when it comes to ecological context.
Vultures are large bird feeding on dead carcasses and technically on the top of any plant-animal food chain. Any dead body, if not properly disposed has a high potential for causing epidemic diseases in any locality both in animals and human being.
As one of the greatest Indian ornithologist Dr. Salim Ali stated that ‘Vultures are God’s own incineration, which cannot be replaced even by most sophisticated ones which man may invent’, they play a very crucial role in cleaning the remaining dead corpse of animals surpassing other wild animals and birds.
Our state is fortunately home to several vulture species including Critically Endangered (CR) vultures like Long-billed vulture, Slender-billed vulture and White-rumped vulture in Daying Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary (DEMWS), Pasighat whose population are at verge of extinction if not monitored properly. Near Threatened (NT) vulture species like Himalayan Griffon and Bearded vulture are also roosting in Arunachal Pradesh. With special mention Himalayan Griffon can also be observed in Ex-situ conservation condition in Biological park of Itanagar and Roing respectively.
When we talk about wild habitat of vultures, they generally prefer open grassland with tall trees for easy food searching and roosting except for Bearded vulture which is a high altitude vulture. Recently four species of vultures were re-recorded from DEMWS, Pasighat where they were found to be feeding on carcasses or soaring in the sky.
More significantly the three CR vulture species (Long-billed vulture, Slender-billed vulture and White-rumped vulture) which are in verge of extinction due to diclofenac poisoning has found their home in DEMWS, Pasighat which is a not less than a wonder for any bird lovers and researchers. The major factors for their survivability is the landscape pattern and availability of dead carcasses. Moreover, this area is under wildlife protection status, which is properly monitored by officials of Pasighat Forest Division.
Due to the lack of awareness among our people, sometimes we are left behind in maintaining the beauty and stability of our ecosystem. Interestingly, vultures can be considered as one of our best friends in concept of ecology as presently they are one of the non-harming scavengers known to human being on earth, so deforestation and uses of diclofenac can be a curse for them.
We must realize that it is our privilege that these declining populated vultures choose to share our state as their home, thus we must always be ready to give a helping hand in protecting and saving this poor creatures.
Ecology and Wildlife unit, RGU