Blogging About Critters Since 2007

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Vulture Restaurant is Not What You Think

When I first read the headline Nepali Vulture "Restaurant" Aims to Revive Decimated Population, I thought they were cooking vultures in Nepal in order to save the species. That sounded like a Seinfeld episode (think of what you need to do and then do the opposite!)

But no! I was wrong.

A decade ago, an estimated 300,000 vultures cruised the Nepali skies.

Today only around 1,000 birds remain.

The culprit is Diclofenac, a painkiller and anti-inflammatory drug commonly administered to the cattle that are a mainstay of the vultures' diet.

"Studies have found that vultures feeding on carcasses treated with Diclofenac died of kidney failure within 24 hours," said Hem Sagar Baral, a Nepali ornithologist with Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN) who came up with the idea of a "restaurant" where the birds could eat uncontaminated carrion....

Since early this year, BCN has been offering to buy terminally sick cattle for three dollars each. The dying animals are then taken to the restaurant's farm in a community-owned forest where they are treated, if needed, with another, vulture-friendly painkiller....

Once the carcasses are declared free of Diclofenac, they are skinned to make them easier for the vultures to eat and taken to a spot in the jungle where the birds come to feed.

"Our objective is to provide uncontaminated food to vultures to save them from becoming extinct," Tila Bhusal, secretary of the restaurant management committee told AFP in Nawalparasi district 120 kilometres (75 miles) southwest of Kathmandu.

As well as providing a place where the birds can get clean meat, BCN has successfully campaigned for the veterinary painkiller to be banned in Nepal.

Very clever!

Photo by _pauls

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