Since the discovery in the late 1990s that vulture population were declining rapidly a huge programme of work has been undertaken a range of conservation focused work and research. Along the way the project has followed false leads and suffered many frustrations, however significant conservation achievements and progress has been made. The time-line at the bottom of this page provides summary information on the project’s key conservation progress
Follow the links below or on the left side-bar for more information on diagnosing the cause of the problem, alternative hypotheses for the cause of declines, banning diclofenac and work on safe alternative drugs to replace diclofenac.
Significant milestones for the vulture programme
1998 — Anecdotal observations and counts of vultures at Keoladeo National Park indicate a decline in numbers in India
1999 — Decline in vultures numbers in India is matched by similar declines in Pakistan and Nepal
2000 — Research in to the cause of the decline is initiated in South Asia, investigating the potential role of food shortages, poisoning, use of pesticides, disease or other factors in the deaths and rapid decline of vultures
2003 — Nationwide surveys across India indicate vultures have declined by more than 90% in comparison to populations in the early 1990s, and that an abundance of carcasses and breeding habitat (large trees and cliffs) indicate that these factors are not important for the decline in numbers
Researchers from Pakistan and The Peregrine Fund discover that the veterinary drug diclofenac is widely used for treating livestock in Pakistan and is toxic to vultures
2004 — Work in India and Nepal confirms the presence of diclofenac residues in vulture carcasses with visceral gout and the widespread availability and use of this drug by veterinarians
Vulture Recovery meetings in Nepal and India produces a “Diclofenac Manifesto” and “Vulture Recovery Plan” signed national and international conservation organisations with the support of national governments stating the need to ban the veterinary use of diclofenac, and the urgent requirements to find vulture safe alternative drugs and to capture and establish vulture conservation breeding centres
The vulture research facility at Pinjore, Haryana State, India, is enlarged and converted in to Asia’s first Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre
2006 — Safety testing on African and Asian vultures demonstrates that an alternative veterinary drug, meloxicam, is safe for vultures and other scavenging birds as well as effective for treating livestock
The governments of India, Nepal and Pakistan ban the manufacture and importation of veterinary diclofenac
India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests produces a vulture action plan to tackle the conservation crisis within the country
2007 — Repeat nationwide surveys of vultures across India confirm the continued decline of vultures, with numbers of Oriental white-backed vultures now reduced by 99.9% in comparison to 1992
2008 — Vulture Conservation Breeding Centres in India breed its first two Oriental white-backed vultures to be bred in captivity, breeding activity commences in India’s two other breeding centres in Assam and West Bengal
Nepal constructs it’s own Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre
2009 — Breeding centres in India produce 3 white-backed vulture fledglings and two slender-billed vulture fledglings, the first time that this species has ever been bred in captivity
Nepal captures another 30 vulture chicks for the centre and completes construction of a colony aviary, as well as finalising details of a National Action Plan for vultures
2010 — Nepal produces a five year Vulture Conservation Action Plan (2009-2013).
Bird Conservation Nepal, RSPB and local partners establishes a provisional Vulture Safe Zone with six feeding sites, representing the first in situ conservation measure to save vultures.
The Bombay Natural History Society agrees to establish Vulture Safe Zones in India with the help of local partners and the RSPB.
The UK Government’s Darwin Initiative provides generous support to both in situ (Vulture Safe Zone) and ex situ (Vulture Conservation Breeding Centres) conservation action in India and Nepal through the RSPB.
2011 — SAVE (Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction) is formed to bridge international boundaries, coordinate conservation action and enhance promotion and support for our cause. Later in the year the first meeting was held.
A network of Provisional Vulture Safe Zones (PVSZs) develops in India. Teams meet to discuss best practice for conservation action within PVSZs.
2012 — A symposium to develop a regional response to vulture conservation brings the governments of Bangladesh, Indian, Nepal and Pakistan together and declare that they will work together to prevent the extinction of the three most threatened vultures in South Asia. In addition, the IUCN, Central Zoo Authority (India) and Wildlife Institute of India agree to a more active role in vulture conservation.