April 2020: Nepal: Released White-rumped Vultures Now Travelling Far and Wide

Since 2017, 31 captive-reared and captive-bred1 White-rumped Vultures Gyps bengalensis have been released and fitted with GPS telemetry tags, which allows us to monitor the movements and survival of these Critically Endangered birds. By following them, along with 30 wild birds also fitted with GPS tags, and investigating the cause of mortality of any vultures that die, we can ensure that diclofenac and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) no longer pose a threat. The good news so far is that, after more than two years, we have found no evidence that any tagged birds have succumbed to NSAID-poisoning. This is vitally important, as it enables us to confirm that the provisional Vulture Safe Zones are proving safe for vultures and will, in time, allow us to declare these areas as genuine VSZs – the first in the world, free of diclofenac and other harmful NSAIDs

Wild birds tend to range widely, frequently up to 200 km from the feeding site at Pithauli, to which they only occasionally return to take advantage of the food that is still provided twice a week. The record so far, however, is held by a bird that travelled about 1100 km from the release site, all the way to Jammu and Kashmir in India.

The released birds, on the other hand, have tended to remain far more local, until recently only travelling a maximum of 6 km from the release and feeding site. However, as this year’s particularly bad winter has come to an end, some of the vultures have begun to undertake movements not previously seen by released birds. Nine of the birds have been seen to take journeys of over 20 km, with the furthest-ranging bird travelling 193 km from the release site (see Map). Two of the birds have travelled across the border into India.

Note: Adults are captive reared and Sub-Adults are captive bred

They have covered an area of almost 17,000 sq. km, which is a very large area compared to that previously covered by the released birds. In comparison, the wild tagged birds, excluding the bird that travelled all the way to J&K in India, have covered an area of roughly 24,500 sq. km.

Map showing the movements of nine released birds from 2 March 2020 to 15 April 2020

Most of the wild tagged birds are now busy rearing their chicks. At the start of this breeding season, we found three pairs of released vultures nest building and mating frequently. As this was their first breeding attempts, the nests were quite weak, and the birds did not complete their breeding activity; however, this was an important development in our conservation breeding and release programme, and it is hoped that the same pairs, and perhaps others, will nest again in the upcoming year. The photo below shows birds C6 and 13, released in 2019 and 2017 respectively, nestbuilding in the vicinity of the release site.

Captive reared birds making their nest in the wild. Photo: BCN

Bird Conservation Nepal leads the release work with full support of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Chitwan National Park, National Trust for Nature Conservation and Community of Kawasoti, Nawalparasi. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (UK) provides much of the technical and financial support for the work along with technical expertise of the Zoological Society of London (UK) and International Centre for Birds of Prey (UK).

Flock of released and wild vultures at the Pithauli Vulture-Safe Feeding Site. Photo: BCN

News update contributed by Krishna Bhusal (BCN), John Mallord (RSPB).

1Captive-reared birds are those that were wild-bred and taken into captivity as nestlings, reared and then released as adults. Captive-bred birds were born in captivity and released into the wild at less than two year of age.



  1. Ajad Singh on 24th April 2020 at 3:12 pm

    Tag no C-3 Injured and landed in village Rampur Nathan,Barwapatti distt Kushinagar,Uttar Pradesh on 24/4/2020

    • Chris Bowden on 5th May 2020 at 12:54 pm

      Many thanks Ajad, such information very gratefully received. My apologies for the slow response. If you have further details, do please email me on chris.bowden@rspb.org.uk . C3 has been re-released on Sunday after some care by the Forest Department. We will update more in future. Thanks again.

      • Ajad Singh on 3rd June 2020 at 4:20 am

        C3 again found in
        Village Sahjapur,block Maholi,distt Sitapur UTTAR Pradesh ,
        Now forest department lko taking care as per information

  2. Singh Ajad on 1st May 2020 at 5:04 am

    C5 found near Indo Nepal border at Sonauli

  3. Chris Bowden on 6th May 2020 at 11:34 am

    Do please mail me such observations, with date and location. I can see that we will need to provide a further update on the movements and fate of all the birds – which we can do. All such observations very gratefully received meanwhile. With kind regards, Chris

  4. Kiran Srivastava on 5th June 2020 at 8:34 am

    Chris, the list above excluded C3 but glad somebody gave details. Good show overall.

  5. Scott Tidmus on 5th June 2020 at 10:35 am

    Has there been conversations with other released programs about the range of the released birds and is this just a result of age, conditioning or food sources?
    It would be interesting to evaluate that and see if this is an unusual situation or a norm for post release birds.

  6. […] been released in Nepal since 2017 and these birds have been tracked and monitored closely (e.g. see here). Similarly, the newly released birds in India have been fitted with PTT and GPS tracking devices. […]

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