Dead Vultures Get Honour Reserved For Humans In This Village
Tinsukia: When nearly 36 vultures died in Assam’s Tinsukia district last month, residents of the village decided to honour the birds by hold a ‘shraadha’ or a prayer meeting for them.
A prayer meeting— complete with priests, traditional naam (worship songs) for the departed to rest in peace, lighting of diyas was held, with more than a hundred residents in attendance.
“If we can grieve for human beings, why can’t we do the same for birds and animals?” 30-year-old Nibul Bora of Dhulijan village, who helped organise the ceremony, was quoted as saying in The Indian Express (TIE).
On January 18 and 19, the carcasses of vultures, including the threatened Himalayan griffon (Gyps Himalayensis), slender-billed vulture (Gyps tenuirostris) and white-rumped vulture (Gyps Bengalensis), were found poisoned in a paddy field, close to the four villages of Dhulijan, Betoni, Borgura and Tamuli.
“We suspect they fed off the carcass of a poisoned cow,” Krishna Kanta Gogoi, a junior assistant officer in the wildlife wing of the Doomdooma Forest Division was quoted as saying
The connection between dead cows and vultures
At least six kinds of vultures are found in Assam. However, since the 1990s, there has been a significant decline in vulture population due to poisoning, the report added.
According to Samshul Ali, a veterinarian with the Wildlife Institute of India (WTI), most deaths are a result of deliberate or unintentional poisoning of carcasses with inorganic agricultural pesticides. “It is usually secondary poisoning,” he explained, “It is common for villagers to poison carcasses of cows with the intention to kill feral dogs, jackals or leopards. Unfortunately, vultures feed on carcasses and become victims.”
In this case, the forest department’s Gogoi told TIE, a cow was poisoned, and it is possible that the vultures fed on the cow.
What Assam is doing for its dwindling vulture population?
- The Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) in Kaziranga, jointly run by WTI, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the Assam Forest Department, has rescued and rehabilitated a number of poisoned vultures since 2003.
- There is a Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre in Rani on the outskirts of Guwahati, run by the Bombay Natural History Society in collaboration with the Assam Forest Department.
Rathin Barman, Joint Director, WTI, told TIE that nine vultures were saved in the recent incident. “We released them on the day of the Shraddha, which was held close to where the other vultures were buried,” he said, adding that it was a “commendable example set by the villagers.”