Kevin Chou





November 12th,2015

Projectto conserve vultures in India


This paper discussesa conservation project for vultures in India. InIndia, the number of vultures has dropped over the last 20 years by99 %, and some species of vulture are near extinction (Markandyaetal. 2008 Becker et al 55.) The reason for the death is primarilyfrom diclofenac,aproduct similar to ibuprofen used to treat a variety of cattlediseases, andintentional poisoning of other animals that then acts as secondarypoison to the vultures. The current project aims to re-introduce thevultures back to their habitat using multiple approaches. We proposecreating breeding places for the vultures, establishing protectedareas for releasing the vultures, developing educational andawareness programs to sensitize the people on the values of vultures,and introducing regulations on the use of diclofenac. A breedingplace can be established by substituting the use of diclofenac drugby meloxicam and sensitizing people on the on surrounding areas onthe use of the drug. After breeding the vultures, they are thenreleased to protected areas. These protected areas must have notraces of diclofenac drugs, therefore making them safe for vultures. The final element is to ensure that no more drugs are used, and alsoprograms to assess the progress of the vultures are in place. Whilethe program is expected to cost a lot of money, a cost-benefitanalysis shows that such programisjustified because the benefits fromthe vultures are more than the costs likely to be incurred during theconservation process.

Naturalresources are materials, as well as components found within theenvironment. Their maintenance and conservation are some of theprimary responsibilities of policymakers. Wildlife, as part of thenatural resources, faces biodiversity risks such as speciesextinction. Studies indicate that maintenance of food chain and foodwebs are one way of managing wildlife, but achieving this objectivecome with more integrated approaches capable of maintaining a naturalorder(Roy167). In the ecosystem, food chain must be managed effectively to avoidanimal extinction, a problem that can bring about ecosystembreakdown. Food chains illustrate the organism or sequence throughwhich the energy flow. Some animals can only feed on one type of foodsuch as carnivores and herbivores, while others, omnivores, can feedon different types of foods, for example, man.

Anecosystem can be referred to be balanced when all the animal andnon-animal components are in harmony. However, the balance can bedisrupted if one component of the ecosystem or non-animal componentsbecome extinct. The elimination of one component can damage a foodchain and eventually lead to the breakdown of the whole ecosystem(Hoagstrom19).This paper addresses the issue of vultures` extinction in India. A2005 report published by British Medical Association (BMA) indicatedthat several vultures` species in India are nearly extinct (BMA para5). According to the report, the birds were the most abundant largebirds in the 1980s. However, over the last two decades, thepopulation has reduced by 99 %. These birds play a important role inthe ecosystem as they scavenge rotting carcasses. A report byInternational Union for Conservation of Nature (AUCN)shows thatthe death of these birds came from feeding on cattle carcassestreated using diclofenac, a product similar to ibuprofen used totreat a variety of cattle diseases (International Union forConservation of Nature para. 6).

Contributionof the project

Vulturesplay an important role in the environment because they feed onrotting carcasses, therefore, removing them from the environment.Studies show that a group of vultures can feed on a carcass of asmall animal in less than a half hour – nature`s way of disposingof waste (Mueller para. 4). However, reports by AUCNindicatethat the three South Asia`s Gyps vultures are critically endangered(International Union for Conservation of Nature para. 8). Thepopulation of the three types of vultures: Oriental White-backed,Long-billed, as well as Slender-billed vulture, have decreased by 99%. Further reports indicate that the population of the most popularvulture. Oriental White-backed Vulture has been reduced by 99.9% inthe last 20 years (Markandyaetal. 195).A report by Jha, published in The Guardian website indicates that thereduction of these birds is quicker than other wilds bird such asDodo, and this shows that they face extinction, a problem that canlead to problems on the environ (Jhapara. 7). The death of the vultures results from the accidental diclofenacpoisoning, a product similar to ibuprofen used to treat a variety ofcattle diseases in South Asia. Vulture feeding on carcasses of cowstreated withdiclofenac died of kidney failure because it was poisonto them (Markandyaetal. 194).Some media reports argue that casual and careless use of the medicinewas the cause of the problem (WorldBirdwatch12).The casual and careless use of the medicine came as a result offerocious marketing by Big Pharma to ensure its products are widelyused in India (WorldBirdwatch12).

Inthe wake of this problem, this project aims to introduce safe areasfor vulture reintroduction. The project aims to establish areas inIndia that can be declared diclofenac free and safe for the vultures.The objective is to increase the vulture population and prevent theirextinction. Furthermore, it also proposes an education and awarenessprogram to educate people on the importance of conserving thevultures. The project also proposes new legislation to ensure thesafe use of the drug. The new legislation should aim to reduce theimpact of drugs not only on vultures but also for other animals thathave a role the maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. The newregulations will require that drugs such as pesticides, herbicides,as well as other drugs targeted to farmers are thoroughly assessed toensure they do not affect other animals in the ecosystems.

Theintroduction of the safe zones, education and awareness program andnew regulations will ensure successful re-introduction of vulturesand promote their population increase. It is hoped that theimplementation of these measures will ensure that the vultures willcontinue to exist in India.

Demographiccharacteristics of the regions

Theprojectwill be conducted in WestBengals state and Assam regions in. West Bengals is the fourthpopulous state located in the Eastern region of the country. Assamstate is North Eastern region of India. The two states are highlypopulated and large in Geographical area. The 2011 census shows thatAssam’s total population was 31.16 million, with most of the peopleconcentrated in the districts of Kamrup, Nagaon, Sonitpur, Barpetaand Cachar


Thestate`s literacy level was 73.18% in 2011, with the Male literacy of78.81%, and that of the female as 67.27%. They study also recordedwas recorded urbanization rate as 12.9% (Akhtar54).The economy of the region depends on agriculture for about 69 %of thepeople. According to IndiaBrand Equity Foundation (IBEF), themacroeconomic snapshot of the economy of Assam can be said to be thecombination of backwardness in the midst of plenty (Akhtar56).Although the national economy has grown at an average of 6% between1981 and 2000, Assam’s economy, on the other hand, has grown at anaverage of 3.3%. The per-capita of Assam is 40%lower than nationalper-capita income. As a result of being an agrarian economy, thestate is home to middle-sized industries, most of them beingagro-based companies (Akhtar57).The unemployment rate in the country is very high, especially amongthe educated youths. Unemployment surveys conducted in the regionhas shown that involvement in agriculture is declining daily. Educated people are the most affected by unemployment, and recentsurvey indicates that the number of unemployed stood at 1,400,000in 2010 (Akhtar57).


WestBengals, on the other hand, is the fourth most populous state in thecountry. It is located in the northeast region of the country.According to the 2011 national census, the total population of WestBengals was approximately 91 million people (StateProfile- West Bengal para19).Bengalis are the majority of the population. Other minorities, aswell as immigrants, are scattered in the region. The state hasexperienced decennial growth rate of 13.74 percent, which is lowerthan growth rate between 2001 and 2011, and also lower than thenational growth rate of 17.64% (Roy163).The literacy rate in the state is higher than that national one, andlife expectancy is also high than national life expectancy. Theeconomy of this region is dependent on agriculture and middle-sizedindustries. Although a significant part of the state is economicallybackward, West Bengals is one of the states in India that has a foodsurplus. It contributes about 20 %of the rice yields and 33 %ofpotatoes yields, while it only accounts for only 15 %of the totalpopulation (Roy164).

Source:(StateProfile- West Bengal)

Therate of labor participationand workforce participation rates, as wellas unemployment are a good indicators of employment profile of agiven country or region (Akhtar59). According to a survey conducted between 2004 and 2005 usingNational Survey Samples indicated that labor participation (72 %) byother minorities in the state is higher than communities (cited inRoy163).The survey also found the difference between labor forceparticipation and workforce participation among socio-religiouscommunities (SRCs) to be marginal (Roy163).One of the interested results revealed by the survey is that whileunemployment status of the Muslims has increased, the unemploymentstatus of Other Minorities has reduced. However, such result impliesthat Muslims have shifted their work from secure areas to vulnerableones.

Vulturesin India

Theproject to save the vulture is integral in the maintenance of abalanced ecosystem(Beckeret al. 58). Vultures play a significant role in keeping our ecosystemhealthy. They serve both biological and cultural significance.Although there are different speciesof vultures, they all acts asscavengers feeding on carcasses of dead animals, and in this way theyhelp to keep our ecosystem clean. They can feed on dead animalsbecause they have acid in their stomach that help to digestdecomposing carcasses even those infected with diseases such asanthrax, cholera, botulinum toxin, as well as rabies (Ogada,Keesing and Virani 58).In some areas such as Tibetan plateau, they have a culturalsignificance to the community living in those areas(Markandya,et al. 196). Sincethe environmental conditions do not allow the people have groundburial for their family members, they &quotbury in the sky.&quot In this form of burial, the monks prepare the body to be ingested bythe birds, which is generous act because the dead have something tooffer to a living creature. While we expect that a creature thatdisposes rotting carcasses and prevent the spread of dangerousdiseases would be held in high regard, this is not the case indifferent part of the world, especially in India and Africa (Ogadaetal. 455). Intentional, as well as unintentional, interference havedestroyed the birds to the point of near extinctions. In the UnitedStates, lead, especially from ammunition, remains the leading problemthat causes vulture death (Markandya,et al. 195). Thisoccurs when condors feed on carcasses poisoned by lead shots and wheningested it causes a slow death. Vultures in India have been reducedto near extinction because of the use of diclofenac, a painkiller forlivestock and human in India. The consumption of a carcass of animaltreated using diclofenac cause kidney failure to the birds (Greenetal. 686). Although the drug has been banned, conservationists arguethat it is too late for the vultures to survive on their own withouthelp to aid their production and reintroduction.

Accordingto an article on Assam website,thegovernment has established numerous programs to re-introduce vulturesback to their habitat (Assampara. 3). India has a comprehensive policy and framework, and institutionsmandated to conserve the wildlife and improve the ecosystem. Thegovernment through the Ministry of Environment and Foresthasimplemented its policy to conserve its wildlife, as well as othernatural resources (cited in (International Union for Conservation ofNature para. 11). An article by SaveVulture organizationIndiahas a total of 700 protected areas and provides technical andfinancial assistance through schemes such as Integrated Developmentof Wildlife Habitats (The Ministry Of Environment &amp Forests,para. 8). These schemes support protected areas, protection ofwildlife outside protected areas and establish recovery programs forthe endangered species. It is through these programs that thegovernment has introduced action plans to save vultures fromextinction.


This project proposes that re-introduction of the Vulture back toWest Bengals and Assam can be achieved through the establishment ofbreeding sites accompanied with protected sites that are free fromdiclofenac. However, the re-introduction of these animals cannot beachieved through one approach, but it can only achieve through acombination strict laws on the use of diclofenac, development ofbreeding sites and protected sites for the vulture’sre-introduction and development of education and awareness programs.These programs will achieve three goals including breeding ofVultures, ensure areas, where vultures are re-introduced, is freefrom the deadlydiclofenac, and ensure people are educated about theimportance of vultures. Protected sites are not only important forthe number they retain, but also as the first release sites forcaptive-reared birds. These areas ensure that birds can be protectedand congregate in large numbers. The first approach to establishingbreeding areas is to remove all stocks of veterinary diclofenac andreplacing it with Vulture-safe drug meloxicam. However, the removalof the drugs should take in the surrounding areas (up to more than 50kilometers).

Theremoval of diclofenac and replacing it with meloxicam is thenfollowed the extensive education awareness programs to educate peopleon the value of the vultures in the community. Specifically, thisinvolves teaching people on the ability of the vultures to cleancarcasses and the way they prevent the spread of diseases andincrease the number of feral dogs. The educational programs should beheld with farmers, veterinary and pharmacist to educate them on theimpact of diclofenac on the environment and, specifically, onvultures. They should also understand the ability of vultures toattract tourist to the community.

Anotherelement of the project is to attract and retain vultures in the safeareas. This can be done through the provision of safe food on aregular basis. The safe foods for the Vultures can be providedthrough programs involving farmers. Through the program, the farmercan acquire old animals, especially after their working life, rearthem until they die and then sell the carcass. Specifically, thefarmers buy old animal at a low price a real them at higher prices tothe conservation agency as a food for the Vultures. The presence ofdrug on the carcass should first be checked before giving thevulture. Such programs have been employed in Nepal and flock ofvultures can now be seen flying in the sky. The final element of theproject is to ensure that the project has a long-term effectiveness.This can be achieved through the introduction of stringent measuresto curb the use of diclofenac in the regions. Additionally, long-termmonitoring, together with research to ascertain the sustainability ofthe re-introduced population can also help.


Theeconomic analysis of the project involves the cost-benefit analysisof Vulture conservation. Various studies all over the world such asthose conducted by Beckeretin 2010 evaluatingthe cost-benefit analysis of Israel vultures and Markandyaet. al. conducted in 2008 evaluatingthe cost benefits analysis of vulture’s conservation project inIndia and Nepal. These studies have found these projects to havepassed cost-benefit analysis and, therefore, considered viable. Thecost-benefit analysis of vulture conservation is a wide topic, andthis paper provides a summary of the benefits and consequencesresulting from the decline of the vulture.

Impactsof declined vulture

Astudy by Becker et al. provides some of the impacts that are likelyto be realized due to the declining number of vultures (P.58)

Someof the cost of decline of vulture number includes:




Impact of declining number of Vultures

Increased dog bites

Cost related to illness and earnings


Health impact: Decline in some vulture increases feral dogs, which in turn lead to increased dogs bites and increased cases of rabies. The presence carcasses on the pollute ground water, leading to increased cases of anthrax and water borne diseases

Increased dog bites

Costs related to premature mortality


Increased dogs bites will increase the costs related to dogs bites and premature mortality

Decline in declining number of Vultures

Increased bones


Industry costs: Vulture decline increases the cost of disposing of carcasses and the collector of cattle bones for the industry

Impacts on air accident

Costs per accident


Recreation: Decline of some vulture reduces the pleasure gained from viewing the existence of vultures and knowing that environment is sustainable.


Survey involving affected communities


Cultural and religious values: vultures have some significance importance in some community because they are used to dispose of human bodies


Analysis of Expenditure by

Visitors to bird-viewing sites


Recreation: Decline of some vulture reduces the pleasure gained from viewing the existence of vultures and knowing that environment is sustainable.

Bone collectors

Additional cost related to collection of bone, as well as risk of diseases


Other environmental impacts: Decline of vultures can lead to an increase of other scavengers such as feral cats and rats, which can lead to an increase of other population in the ecosystem and also increase in transmission of the diseases.

Increased existence value

placed on remaining vulture



Existence value: Decline of vulture lead to loss of existence value of the vulture. These include charity collection aimed to conserve them among others.

Increased of other scavengers population

Cost of illness


Other environmental impacts: Decline of vultures can lead to an increase of other scavengers such as feral cats and rats, which can lead to an increase of other population in the ecosystem and also increase in transmission of the diseases.

Whileusing the calculations from a study conducted by Markandyaet al., theestimation of the vulturebenefits shows that the project isjustifiable. However, the assumptions below need to be used in theprocess of evaluation.

  • The current population of vulture is 92,431,

  • The natural growth of vulture is 1.3 percent annually in the absence of diclofenac.

  • The captive population is 92 with the same growth rate as that of the natural population.

  • The current population of India as 1.064 billion with an annual growth rate of 1.8.

  • The number rabies per dog is 0.001 and number of cases per dog bites are 0.086, and cost per dog bite is s. 3470 (£43).

  • The cost of rabies-related death is between Rs. 15 million (Adult) and Rs. 30 million, and the cases of rabies leading to death are 40 and in children are 35.5.

  • The cost of the solar concentrator is concentrators are Rs. 1.6 million

  • The cost of one kilogram of diclofenac is Rs. 400 and meloxicam is Rs. 4200

  • The captive project cost about£100,000 to rear 50 birds, and addition £20,000 for operation.

  • The discounted benefit is 5 percent.

Theprogram is highly justified, and other benefits include lowsubstitution of meloxicam for diclofenac. Given that the populationof the dog is likely to reduce benefits are even more because of thereduced cases of bites and rabies.


Whileusing the results of the cost-benefit analysis, the project is likelyto benefits the two regions given the fact it has shown to offer morebenefits to the people. However, the project needs to be intensifiedto ensure the number of the vultures increase to offer such benefitsto the community. Furthermore, the government also needs to ensure aprogram focusing on controlling the population of feral dogs isinitiated to ensure that there is no competition.


The above project provides a way in which vultures can bere-introduced back to the society after near extinction caused bydiclofenac poisoning. The cost-benefits analysis provides analysis ofthe benefits and the cost that are likely to be incurred byconserving the vultures. Vultures are critical to the society becausethey not only fed on scavengers, but they also ensure a balance existin the ecosystem. While using funds from the government and publiccontribution towards conservation of vultures, the project can ensurethat long-term survival of the vultures and continued benefits fromthem.


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