KATHMANDU, Nepal - On Saturday, as many as 465 vultures, including some critically endangered species, were spotted in a single location at the same time, in what could be a rare occurrence.
Vultures from eight of Nepal's nine species were spotted at a vulture restaurant (an artificial feeding site) in Kawasoti, East Nawalparasi district. Conservationists working in vulture conservation are overjoyed to have witnessed such a rare occurrence.
"This is the first time in several decades that vultures in such a large number have been seen at the same place and same time. "It's a good sign for vulture conservation," said DB Chaudhary, a conservationist who first imagined the vulture restaurant in Nepal.
In 2006, the vulture restaurant opened in Amaltari, East Nawalparasi. The scavenging birds came to eat carrion at the restaurant. "There were two carrions at the restaurant that day" (Wednesday). The vultures swooped down, one after the other, to scavenge the carcasses. Such a large number of vultures had never been seen before," said Kebal Prasad Chaudhary, a vulture restaurant employee.
In Nepal, nine of the world's 23 vulture species have been identified. Four species are critically endangered: the white-rumped vulture, the slender-billed vulture, the red-headed vulture, and the Indian vulture. The Egyptian vulture is endangered, and three other species-bearded vulture, cinereous vulture, and Himalayan griffon-are threatened.
In order to save the vulture, the government and various organisations have launched a number of conservation programmes. In 2008, a vulture breeding centre was established in Kasara, Chitwan. Vulture'restaurants' were set up in various locations so that the birds could feed on safe carrion in order to increase their population. Conservation efforts and the government's 2006 decision to prohibit the manufacture, sale, and use of diclofenac aided in the increase of vulture populations in Nepal, primarily of the white-rumped variety.
Recently, the Chitwan National Park forests and community forests in the buffer zone in East Nawalparasi and Chitwan districts have become important vulture habitats. "Vulture population is gradually increasing in the area due to safe and suitable habitats. The presence of enough Simal (Bombax ceiba) trees in the area provides a suitable habitat for the vultures, according to DB Chaudhary.
Bird enthusiasts began visiting the Amaltari area as the vulture population increased. Tourism entrepreneurs are optimistic that the growing vulture population will aid in the promotion and development of tourism in the area.