April 2020: Bangladesh Himalayan Griffon release & SAVE wing tagging plans
On 4 April 2020, 12 rehabilitated Himalayan Griffon Vultures and 1 Cinereous Vulture were released from the Vulture Rescue Centre in Singra National Park, Dinajpur District, Northern Bangladesh. The centre is managed by the Vulture Conservation Initiative of Bangladesh, spearheaded by IUCN Bangladesh and Bangladesh Forest Department (BFD), with the technical and financial support of RSPB and Saving Asia’s Vulture from Extinction (SAVE). The operation is overseen by the Bangladesh National Vulture Recovery Committee (BNVRC) under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
The event had been planned with the attendance of Honorable Minister to the MoEFCC, Mr. Md. Shahab Uddin, and other senior officials including Dr. Md. Billal Hossain, Additional Secretary of MoEFCC and Chair of BNVRC, Mr. Raquibul Amin, the Country Representative of IUCN Bangladesh and the Chief Conservator of Forests, and also to involve training by RSPB wing-tagging experts – Mr. Duncan Orr-Ewing and Dr. John Mallord from the UK. However, a lower key release event went ahead without these key attendees because of the constrains of the coronavirus restrictions.
Each year a number of migrant mainly sub-adult Himalayan Griffons are brought by villagers and BFD staff to the centre for rehabilitation from around the country, totaling 98 since 2014. The reasons for their condition are varied and are still a subject of further investigation, but most have recovered after a few days or weeks and been released back to the wild.
During the 2019-2020 winter period, 23 vultures were rescued, two of which died from injuries sustained by local people before they were rescued and one died having tuberculosis symptoms. A further two vultures were kept in captivity in Bangabandhu Safari Park in Gazipur. Additional vultures were released immediately after treatment.
New wing tagging system
The SAVE consortium is proposing wing-tagging protocols for South Asia which are being documented as part of the 2019 harnessing workshop outputs, still in preparation.
There is also a proposed system of colour-coding for each South Asian country with the country colour code on the right wing. The system retains an individual letter/number codes for all birds, but encompasses the colour-code of dark green on right for Bangladesh, with a year colour-code on the left wing (we have red for the first year, ie 2020 if birds are tagged this year). It had been planned to train and fit these wing-tags this time, but due to pandemic travel restrictions, this training will be rescheduled for future releases. So just the individually coded leg rings were fitted this time. Note that the country-code colour for the right wing is proposed as orange for India and yellow for Nepal.
The year codes (for the left wing) will alternate between the following colours: red/orange/yellow/black/white/blue/green with either black or white numbering/lettering depending on tag colour. The year colour order has not yet been agreed but should start with those colours not being used for country codes on right wing.
In previous years, all the vultures were ringed, wing-tagged and morphometrics were recorded before releasing. Wing-tagging was started in 2018 and will be continued once the training has been completed. Note that the rehabilitation of Himalayan Griffons falls largely outside the main white-rumped vulture conservation programme, so these efforts are being managed and birds rehabilitated with minimal resources. Ideally more emphasis would be placed on improving understanding of why these vultures are regularly being found in a weak state.
Vulture rescue statistics in Bangladesh from 2014 to 2020
Photo 1: Release event one year earlier with Dr. Md. Billal Hossain, Additional Secretary, MoEFCC and Chair, BNVRC; Mr. Md. Abdul Awal Sarker, Conservator of Forests, BFD, Mr. Raquibul Amin, Country Representative of IUCN Bangladesh, and other officials of BFD and news media. Photo: Sakib Ahmed.
Photo 2: Cinereous vulture was part of the release, 04 April 2020. Photo: Md. Mizanur Rahman
News item supplied by Alam Sarowar and Sakib Ahmed (IUCN Bangladesh) – See https://www.facebook.com/VultureprojectBD for more info and reporting of sightings of ringed or wing-tagged birds.
[…] Bangladesh. Fieldwork has been halted, and some staff who have been unable to carry out their duties were temporarily found tasks they could progress from home. This has helped conserve precious resources. The situation however remains very difficult and it is unknown how this may unfold. Despite the restrictions, the release of rehabilitated Himalayan Griffons could go ahead with more locally based officials and staff. See here. […]
Kudos to our friends in Bangladesh. Wish them all success in their future endeavours. Cheers and stay safe!