10 Feb 2020

Since 2017, 31 captive-reared and captive-bred White-rumped Vultures Gyps bengalensis have been released from Vulture Conservation  and Breeding Center, Chitwan to wild in Jatayu Restaurant area of Pithauli, Kawasoti. These all birds were fitted with GPS telemetry tags, which allows us to monitor the movements and survival of these Critically Endangered birds. By following them, along with 30 wild birds also fitted with GPS tags, and investigating the cause of mortality of any vultures that die, we can ensure that diclofenac and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) no longer pose a threat. The good news so far is that, after more than two years, we have found no evidence that any tagged birds have succumbed to NSAID-poisoning. This is vitally important, as it enables us to confirm that the provisional Vulture Safe Zones are proving safe for vultures and will, in time, allow us to declare these areas as genuine VSZs – the first in the world, free of diclofenac and other harmful NSAIDs

Wild birds tend to range widely, frequently up to 200 km from the feeding site at Pithauli, to which they only occasionally return to take advantage of the food that is still provided twice a week. The record so far, however, is held by a bird that travelled about 1100 km from the release site, all the way to Jammu and Kashmir in India.

The released birds, on the other hand, have tended to remain far more local, only travelling a maximum of 6 km from the release and feeding site. However, as this year’s particularly bad winter has come to an end, some of the vultures have begun to undertake movements not previously seen by released birds. Nine of the birds have been seen to take journeys of over 20 km, with the furthest-ranging bird travelling 193 km from the release site (see Map). Two of the birds travelled across the border into India. The detail is in table below:-


S.N, Species, Released Date, Age Class, Satellite ID, Wing Tag No., Distance travelled from release site

1., White-rumped Vulture, November 2017, Adult, 151542, 10 (Yellow), 193.0 km, Balarampur, UP, India

2., White-rumped Vulture, September 2018, Sub-Adult, 171344, 44 (Yellow), 90.3 km, Maharajganj, UP, India

3., White-rumped Vulture, September 2018, Sub-Adult, 53220, 26 (Yellow), 83.8 km, Parbat, Nepal

4., White-rumped Vulture, October 2019, Sub-Adult, 192978, H8 (Yellow), 62.1 km, Thori, Parsa, Nepal

5., White-rumped Vulture, October 2019, Adult, 192971, C1 (Yellow), 57.1 km, Thori, Parsa, Nepal

6., White-rumped Vulture, October 2019, Adult, 192977, C7 (Yellow), 55.9 km, Ratnanagar, Chitwan, Nepal

7., White-rumped Vulture, September 2018, Sub-Adult, 53192, 24 (Yellow), 29.2 km, Rampur, Palpa, Nepal

8., White-rumped Vulture, October 2019, Adult, 192975, C5 (Yellow), 22.0 km, Deurali, Palpa, Nepal

9., White-rumped Vulture, September 2018, Adult, 53183, 38 (yellow), 20.2 km, Nawalparasi, Nepal

They have covered an area of almost 17,000 sq. km, which is a very large area compared to that previously covered by the released birds. In comparison, the wild tagged birds, excluding the bird that travelled all the way to J&K, India have covered an area of roughly 24,500 sq. km.

Most of the wild tagged birds are now busy rearing their chicks. At the start of this breeding season, we found three pairs of released vultures nest building and mating frequently. As this was their first breeding attempts, the nests were quite weak, and the birds did not complete their breeding activity; however, this was an important development in our conservation breeding and release programme, and it is hoped that the same pairs, and perhaps others, will nest again in the upcoming year. The photo below shows birds C6 and 13, released in 2019 and 2017 respectively, nest building in the vicinity of the release site.Captive reared birds making their nest in the wild

As the released birds moving away and in new places they cannot compete with wild birds in feeding and flying randomly then unable to return on release site. One bird with wing tag C7 was found weak and rescued by the NTNC-BCC team. After caring of 4 days in NTNC-BCC office Sauraha, released back in Pithauli release site. Exceptionally, one bird reached about 3500m in Manaslu Conservation Area and rescued by NTNC-MCAP team in last week. After caring vulture team is there for bringing that bird back to release site. Feeding to vulture in release aviary and feeding site and the monitoring of released bird is continue during this pandemic time.