Roots and Shoots Nepal, an NGO dedicated to wildlife conservation, the environment, and human communities, has been busy preparing for the Vulture Conservation Festival 2010, to be held from 24 to 26 September in Basabasahi village of Nawalparasi district. "This will be the first of its kind in the world of vulture conservation," says volunteer Neeraj Gautam.
Vulture conservation has been approached in various ways since the mid-90s, when it was recognised that this important member of our ecosystem was critically endangered. Nepal has hosted summits, awareness workshops, scientific research, and observed International Vulture Conservation Day. These efforts have resulted in something of a revival for vultures. This year the number of nests in Nawalparasi exceeded 25, up from only 3 back in 2006. But the threats to vultures remain.
The old problem of vultures suffering kidney failure induced by Diclofenac, the analgesic traced in carcasses of cattle, still persists. The ban on the manufacturing and import of diclofenac imposed in 2006 has not outlawed its use or sale, for the drug is also used as an anti-inflammatory analgesic in humans. As long as human use of diclofenac continues, it is likely to be used for veterinary purposes as well, as it is much cheaper than Meloxicam, the safer veterinary alternative.
Nawalparasi's vultures are also threatened by municipality use of poison on street dogs that are subsequently scavenged. It's worth noting that if vultures disappear, the carcasses of animals, left unattended, can be host to diseases such as TB, anthrax, and brucellosis. Roots and Shoots Nepal aims to spread awareness of these facts, and the threats to the newly emerging, vulnerable population of vultures, so that counteractive measures can be taken.
One doesn't have to be a hardcore activist, veterinary expert or an ecologist to support the upcoming vulture festival. There is ample opportunity for eco-tourism. The festival has lots in store for adventure lovers, as there will be numerous activities including tree climbing, vulture nest watching, jungle hiking, cycling, tractor riding, cart riding, camping, beach football and volleyball, homestay with local Tharus, a Tharu food festival, and art and photo exhibitions of the different species of vultures in Nepal. The income generated at the festival will be used to fund local efforts in vulture conservation such as 'vulture restaurants' where diclofenac-free carcasses are supplied to vultures.
Celebrate vultures and help the environment this month, while having a great time yourself. Contact Roots and Shoots Nepal (4107599) for registration forms. Prices for activities listed range from Rs 5,000 to Rs 15,000.