Kangra district now has the highest population of Asian white-backed vulture in the country. The bird has been enlisted as a critically endangered species in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list.In 2004-05, the Wildlife Department of Himachal had recorded about 33 nests of white-backed vultures in Kangra district. In 2012-13, 273 nests were recorded.
It was estimated by the department that the population of the vultures would be around 1,100 in Kangra district, which is the highest in the country. This also indicates that while the population of the white-backed vultures is still in a critical state in the plains, it has bounced back in lower areas of Himachal. As per the estimate of wildlife officials, about 200 white-backed vultures are taking birth every year in the state.Sources in the Wildlife Department said 44 breeding sites of the white-backed vultures had been recorded in the Shivalik Hills of Himachal, which is a very healthy sign for the survival of the critically endangered species. The pine forests in the Shivalik Hills are serving as a habitat for the white-backed vultures in the state. However, the habitat of the vultures also carries a threat for their survival.
The pine forests in Himachal are prone to forest fires as pine needles that deposit on the ground are highly inflammable. Almost every year, the pine forests catch fire, which besides destroying the forest wealth also destroys the habitat of the white-backed vultures.The only conservation that the vultures need in the state is that the pine forests should be protected from forest fires. Regular removal of pine needles from the forest ground and some kind fire-fighting mechanism in the area can help reduce danger to the population of the white-backed vultures in Himachal.
The Wildlife Department has set a feeding station for white-backed vultures in the Nagrota Surian area of Kangra district. Dead stray animals are left in that feeding station after skinning.
SD Sharma, Chief Conservator, Wildlife, Dharamsala circle, said, “The white-backed vultures can scavenge on dead animals only if they are skinned. So we have hired a local cobbler to skin the animals. The feeding station of white-backed vultures has been barbed to protect competition to them from stray dogs. Stray dogs that have been increasing are posing serious competition to these vultures in wild.
”DS Dadwal, Assistant Conservator, Wildlife, said, “We are going to carry out a fresh survey for assessing the population of the white-backed vultures in Kangra district.”The population of the Asian white-backed vultures crashed in North India and Pakistan bringing them to the category of critically endangered species.The scientists later found that diclofenac, a medicine that was used in the treatment of domestic animals, was the basic reason for the decline in the population of the white-backed vultures. The use of diclofenac was banned for treatment of animals.