Guwahati: At least 25 vultures were found dead under mysterious circumstances in Assam’s Sivasagar district on Monday morning. The incident took place at a field in the Gorkush area in the district.
The carcasses were spotted by locals after which they immediately informed forest authorities. Meanwhile, eight other vultures were found in critical condition. Forest officials reached the spot and administered first aid to the eight vultures that were still alive.
Forest department officials said, “The vultures had reportedly eaten a cattle carcass and it was suspected that the carcass might have been poisoned. Post-mortem reports were awaited. An investigation would also be conducted.”
However, it was not the first time that a mass death of vultures in Assam was reported.
On March 17, 2022, nearly 100 endangered vultures were found dead near the Chaygaon area in the Kamrup district. The vultures had reportedly eaten a goat carcass and the forest officials suspected that the vultures died after eating poisonous food. A similar incident also happened earlier in the same area.
A fortnight before the Chaygaon incident, more than 30 vultures were found dead after feeding on a poisoned carcass of a cow in eastern Assam’s Dibrugarh district. Officials found some villagers had poisoned the carcass to get rid of stray dogs.
In a similar case, as many as 23 vultures and a dog were found dead in the Rani forest area with many other vultures in critical condition. At least 36 vultures were reportedly poisoned in the Nalapara area which falls in the Barihat section of the Rani forest.
Earlier in February 2021, four Himalayan griffons were found dead near a wetland in Lakhimpur district’s Dhakuakhana area. The carcasses of the birds were found near a dead cow. Prior to it, in January 2021, poisoned carcasses of two cows claimed the lives of 23 vultures in the Dhola area of eastern Assam’s Tinsukia district. The vultures belonged to the oriental white-backed and slender-billed species.
It may be mentioned that the Delhi High Court on December 13, 2022, directed the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation to take steps for the protection and conservation of vultures in a plea raising issue of the decline in the population of vultures in India. The Court asked CDSCO to take proper steps for banning the drugs which are responsible for the decline in the vulture population in India.
In 2019, the Gauhati High Court has sentenced a man accused, identified as Dhanpati Das, of killing 25 vultures to plant and take care of 25 trees. The state forest department had filed a case against Das, a resident of Kamalpur, for lacing a goat carcass with pesticides that killed the 25 rare vultures.
The Minister of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has publically stated that due to the sharp decline in the vulture population, its population has come down from 40 million to just 19,000 in a span over three decades.
Official figures revealed that in the last 30 years around 4 Crores vultures have died at an average of around 13 lakh vultures annually because of toxic drugs, Bansal submitted.
The Assam Forest Department set up the Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre in 2007 at Guwahati’s Rani area, one of four in India that the Bombay Natural History Society.