November 2019: 9th Annual SAVE Meeting featured on Bangladesh National TV

Group photo of participants (photo BNHS)

Between 4th and 6th November 2019, the ninth annual meeting of the Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction (SAVE) consortium took place near to the Haryana ‘Jatayu Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre’ in India. 40 attendees, representing all six range countries, Chief Wildlife Wardens from Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and West Bengal, the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, and indeed most of the 24 SAVE partners, met to discuss progress and identify actions for the coming year.

Two media video clips with interviews were prepared (and have been broadcast on Bangladesh TV) by the SAVE Associate Partner, Prokriti O Jibon (Nature & Life Foundation) can be viewed here:

At his inaugural meeting as SAVE chairman, Professor Rhys Green formally opened the meeting welcoming new partners, and the following days were spent reviewing progress and evaluating changes to the regional SAVE Blueprint (Recovery Plan).

Some notable highlights discussed from 2019 included: the banning of veterinary diclofenac in Cambodia, the positive vulture population trend in Nepal being published in the journal Bird Conservation International and publicised more widely (reinforcing the Vulture Safe Zone approach and diclofenac removal as the key steps needed), progress on the banning of ketoprofen and aceclofenac in Bangladesh, and the releases of 13 white-rumped vultures in Nepal, to name a few.

Attendees visited the nearby Jatayu Vulture Breeding Centre, Pinjore on the first day.

A full report of the meeting and updated Blueprint Regional Recovery Plan will be made available in due course. But we can already share the updated SAVE priorities for South and SE Asia which were agreed in plenary here…

Priorities for South Asia

  • Veterinary licences to be withdrawn for drugs known to be toxic to vultures: aceclofenac (a pro-drug for diclofenac), ketoprofen, nimesulide, flunixin & carprofen – based on good existing evidence that these NSAIDs are unsafe for vultures
  • Develop an effective system for the regulation of veterinary drugs, based upon safety-testing on vultures – and continue this for all current painkillers (NSAIDs) and for all potential new ones entering veterinary practice.
  • Evaluate safety to vultures of nimesulide in India as a priority, closely followed by other emerging veterinary NSAIDs.
  • Identify additional vulture safe NSAIDs (alternatives for vets) and publicise such findings and promote existing known vulture-safe NSAIDS.
  • Major efforts urgently needed to address the immediate and increasing gap in funding for vulture conservation which now jeopardises the programme.
  • Promotion of network and approach of ‘Vulture Safe Zones’ across South Asia with expansion to include trans-boundary cooperative efforts.
  • Maintain the existing vulture conservation breeding programmes throughout South Asia.
  • Secure a safe environment for further soft releases of captive vultures at identified sites (100km radius) in Nepal and for first soft releases in India, requiring satellite monitoring of the released birds.
  • Develop national reporting systems for as many vulture deaths as possible, from any cause, with written recording and data storage protocols and pathways for immediate transportation and reliable tissue analysis throughout the SAVE region.
  • Trial poison-bait response training and awareness workshops for identified key areas within the region. These will aim to improve the recording and documentation of poisoning incidents and increase the accessibility of data on poisoning incidents.
  • Use the Convention of Migratory Species’ Vulture Multi-species Action Plan as a tool to promote these SAVE priority actions and engage with governments and to approach CMS for funding.
  • Closely support National Vulture Recovery Committees and the Regional Steering Committee (RSC) in order to facilitate the urgent implementation of the 2012 Delhi Regional Agreement and SAVE priorities.

 Priorities for South East Asia

  1. Implementation of a high profile anti-poisoning campaign (across Cambodia)
  2. Trial poison-bait response training and awareness workshops for identified key areas within the region
  3. More effective law enforcement within protected sites to halt forest conversion and hunting (targeted law enforcement patrols and nest guardians) to protect priority vulture nesting areas.
  4. Effective spatial planning to retain the priority forest areas for vulture conservation, ensuring strong environmental impact assessments are carried out to prevent detrimental regional development projects (Cambodia).
  5. Effective implementation of Cambodia’s veterinary diclofenac ban.
  6. Seek a veterinary diclofenac ban for Myanmar through awareness raising and advocacy
  7. Programme of undercover pharmacy surveys to determine NSAID availability and usage trends
  8. Vulture restaurants continue to be maintained at four priority sites (Cambodia) to continue population monitoring
  9. Develop Vulture Safe Zone concept for Cambodia and Myanmar. Improve quantification of population impact of poisoning and other significant threats on important vulture populations in Cambodia through better data collection and analysis.
  10. Establish baseline vulture monitoring data for Kachin (at VSZ) and Shan States
  11. Improve funding situation for vulture priorities in both countries
  12. Closely support Cambodian Vulture Recovery Committee’s involvement with the Regional Steering Committee (RSC) in order to facilitate the urgent implementation of SAVE priorities.

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