July Report – Vulture Conservation Program

1 June 2010 was the official start of Mahseer Conservancy’s 2010/2011 vulture programme.  The following report is a summary of the work undertaken during the July 2010 period.  This report is the second of a series of monthly reports will be made throughout the year.

1.      Monitoring of vulture colonies

Ringora Village

Elsa Legrand was joined by Irena Glatzle in July, allowing them to extend the hours that they spend monitoring at Ringora.  Their monitoring hours are now 5.30am – 8.30am, and 3.00pm – 6.00pm.

The birds are still head drooping, but it seems to have lessened with the onset of monsoons (from 40% in June to around 25% in July), and the cooler weather.  However, the colony is still under constant monitoring, and we are still prepared to act should another bird drop from the tree (this has not happened during July).  It is interesting to note that Irene has observed more birds head drooping in the mornings than Elsa has, possibly a result of the later monitoring hours that she keeps (Table 2 below).

The following tables are a summary of Elsa and Irene’s observations at the Ringora Vulture colony for July 2010:

Table 1:Overall results for July Ringora colony monitoring

June 2010 July 2010
Elsa Irene
Total number of IWBV recorded (over total monitoring period) 176 198 219
Average number of IWBV recorded 6 7 8
Average number of adults 5 6.25 7
Average number of juveniles 1 0.3 1
Average number of chicks (in nest) 1 0.5 1

Table 2: Morning results for July Ringora colony monitoring

June 2010 July 2010
Elsa (5.30am – 6.30am) Irene (6.30am  – 8.00am)
Total number of IWBV recorded (morning, over total monitoring period) 52 59 64
Maximum number of IWBV recorded (morning) 10 15 12
Minimum number of IWBV recorded (morning) 0 1 0
Average number of IWBV recorded (morning) 4 6.5 6
Maximum number of drooping heads (morning) 0 1 8
Minimum number of drooping heads (morning) 0 0 0
Average number of drooping heads (morning) 0 0.2 1
% of drooping heads (morning) 0% 3.1% 19%

Table 3: Evening results for July Ringora colony monitoring

June 2010 July 2010
Elsa (4.30pm – 6.00pm) Irene (3.00pm – 4.30pm)
Total number of IWBV recorded (evening, over total monitoring period) 124 139 155
Maximum number of IWBV recorded (evening) 14 16 20
Minimum number of IWBV recorded (evening) 3 1 1
Average number of IWBV recorded (evening) 7 7.3 9
Maximum number of drooping heads (evening) 6 10 8
Minimum number of drooping heads (evening) 0 0 0
Average number of drooping heads (evening) 3 2 2
% of drooping heads (evening) 42.86% 27.4% 20%

Tumeria Village

A visit to Tumeria by Nicola Addison, Elsa Legrand, Irena Glatzle, Dewan Singh and Abdul Rehman on 12 July 2010 found three nests and eight birds.  The number of nests found in Tumeria Village is likely to be higher, but finding nests is difficult given the amount of foliage on the Sal trees during this time.

We still intend to carry out structured monitoring of the Tumeria colony, this will hopefully start in August as we have engaged more field assistants and therefore have more man-power.

Photo 1: Nest with juvenile in Tumeria Village

Photo 2: Indian White Back Vulture in Tumeria Village

2.      Ban of the ‘over the counter’ sale of Diclofenac

We are currently consulting with relevant experts on how best to proceed with our drive to ban over the counter sales of Diclofenac.

3.      Diclofenac Awareness Campaign

Diclofenac presence surveys

Lalit Negi has been covering areas close to Ramnagar town, conducting Diclofenac surveys, and distributing campaign posters and leaflets. In July, he covered the following villages:

  • Tumeria Dam
  • Dhela Village
  • Savalde Village
  • Ladhang Famto (Patthr Kuwa)
  • Patram (Maldhan)

A summary of the survey results is as follows:

June July
Number of interviews 6 7
Number of people present 35 42
Total no. of livestock 55 202
Number heard of Diclofenac 2 4
Number that use medical treatment 6 2
Number that have used Diclofenac 1 1
Number that have heard of Meloxicam 0 0

The interviewee that has confirmed their use of Diclofenac lives in Tumeria Village.  The Diclofenac was purchased from the local veterinary doctor.  This is alarming given the proximity of this village to a known vulture colony.  To address this, we will be increasing our awareness campaign in the area (see below).

Screenings of Vanishing Vultures and School Awareness

The arrival of more student volunteers (Sara Frey and Vincent Tondeur) saw the start of an awareness programme at local primary schools.  The first topic of this programme was Vulture Awareness.  Two schools were visited in July – DD Chhimwal School (19 and 31 July) and “Kim School” (23 and 29 July), both in Dhikuli.  The students at the schools were first taught about the different species of vulture, and then told about the problem of Diclofenac.  A second session was used to show “Vanishing Vultures”.

Photo 3: Students been shown the size of a Himalayan Griffon

4.      Training workshop for Field Assistants

On 31 July we held a training workshop, led by Sumantha Ghosh and Nicola Addison, for potential field assistants that may be involved in the Vulture Awareness Program. The attendees were:

  • Anil Chaudhary (Corbett National Park Forest Guide)
  • Prakash Dorby (Corbett National Park Forest Guide)
  • Dharmpal Singh Negi (Corbett National Park Forest Guard)
  • Lalit Negi (Vulture Program Field Assistant)
  • Elsa Legrand (Ringora Village colony monitoring)
  • Irene Glatzle (Ringora Village colony monitoring)

The workshop focused on the identification of the different vulture species, and then extensive discussion on Diclofenac, and the work that Mahseer Conservancy is doing to try and protect the vultures from this drug.  The workshop was dual purpose to 1) inform the participants about Diclofenac, and 2) to ensure that all members of the project team are aware of their roles.

5.      Overall July progress

Overall, progress through July was relatively slow due to the onset of monsoons slowing work or team members being unable to work due to illness or accident (Lalit Negi and Elsa Legrand).  We are hopeful that August will bring greater progress as we will now have more field staff working.

A summary of the action points from the June report, and the progress is as follows (progress discussed in italics):

  • Continue monitoring the Ringora IWBV colony, and increase the hours of monitoring – we have two students now so can increase the amount of monitoring we can carry out. Comment: monitoring has been continued, and monitoring now occurs over a longer time period.
  • Widen the area of our awareness campaign. Comment: Lalit Negi was involved in an accident early July, meaning that he was unable to progress work due to needing extensive recovery time. He did, however, make quite good progress in the short period he was working in July.
  • Screenings of Vanishing Vulture: Tumeria Village

Dhela Village

Tera Village

Comment: these screenings did not happen due to monsoons and staffing pressures.  However, we are hopeful that these will happen in August.

  • Identify schools which could be targeted for vulture awareness (in conjunction with Sara and Vincent’s school environmental awareness work?). Comment: Two local schools have been targeted as discussed in section 3.
  • Arrange Pinjore trip for Nicola, Elsa, Sara, Lalit and Sumantha. Comment: To happen in August.
  • Organise awareness meetings with the veterinary community. Comment: To happen in August.

6.      Plans for August

  • Pinjore trip.
  • Workshop with Forest Department staff, and other interested parties, to raise awareness on Diclofenac, and to get greater involvement from the Forest Department on the war on Diclofenac.
  • Continue monitoring and awareness work.

7.      Project Vulture Core Team (July 2010)

  • Sumantha Ghosh:  President of Mahseer Conservancy and local naturalist with many years experience in the Corbett area.
  • Nicola Addison: Project Vulture field co-ordinator and ecologist with experience working with New Zealand birds of prey.
  • Hem Bahuguna: Field Support, head of the safari team at Tiger Camp, qualified Park guide, and naturalist with many years experience in the Corbett Area.
  • Lalit Negi: Field Assistant, extensive local knowledge and passion for IWBV.
  • Elsa Legrand: Student at LEGTA Les Barnes (France), studying the Management and Protection of Nature.  She is monitoring the Ringora vulture colony as part of her course work.
  • Irena Glatzle: Student from Germany studying ecology at university.  She is also monitoring the Ringora vulture colony as part of her course work (along with Elsa).

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