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Hope rises from the dead as red-headed vultures are spotted again in Nilgiris

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    16th Nov, 2020

Key highlights about the Vulture

Conservation Status

  • The red-headed vulture (also called Asian king vulture, Indian black vulture or Pondicherry vulture) is critically endangered.
  • It finds place in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Some of the key points about the Red-headed vultures

  • Vultures are scavengers that eat animal carcasses. They usually track carnivores and feed on what predators kill.
  • Rotting bodies are cleared up quickly by vultures, thus preventing the spread of infections from dead animals to healthy ones.
  • Scavenging by vultures helps protect livestock populations.
  • Red-headed vultures are considered monogamous and lay only one egg at a time.
  • We have only 15–20 red-headed vultures.

Where it is found?

  • It was historically abundant across the Indian subcontinent, and also eastwards to south-central and south-eastern Asia, extending from India to Singapore.
  • Today the range of the red-headed vulture is localized primarily to northern India.
  • It is usually in open country and in cultivated and semi-desert areas.
  • It is also found in deciduous forests and foothills and river valleys.
  • It is usually found up to an altitude of 3000m from sea level.


  • To take revenge on carnivores (that may have caused livestock loss), local people often poison the carrion of dead cattle and leave them for predators in the forest.
  • This indirect poisoning is the main cause of vulture population decline in southern India.
  • A painkiller for cows and other livestock, Diclofenac was found to be toxic to vultures. It was later banned for veterinary use, to conserve vultures.
  • The dropping of these species is highly acidic and can harm vegetation. So, farmers push the vultures away. That is another reason for the population decline.
  • With a growing practice of burying cattle corpses, low rainfall and dry streams, and loss of Neer Marudhu or Marudham trees (ideal for nesting), the breeding pattern of vultures has changed. This hampers their population growth.

Conservation efforts

  • Arulagam, an NGO, conducts puppet shows in tribal and other local hamlets to impress upon people the need for conserving vultures.

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