Face to face SAVE meeting in Nepal

On 9th and 10th March 2023 the first face to face SAVE meeting since 2019 took place in Nawalpur, Nepal.

Dr Maheshwar Dhakal, Director General of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) chaired the opening session, which was hosted by Dr Ganesh Pant, Ecologist at DNPWC. The program was officially inaugurated by Dr Rewati Raman Poudel, Secretary of the Ministry of Forests and Environment, as the Chief Guest, following welcome remarks by Mr. Ajay Karki, Deputy Director General of DNPWC. During the event, a message from Dr Shankhar Das Bairagi, Chief Secretary, Government of Nepal, was read by Dr Dhakal.

Professor Rhys Green as the Chair of SAVE, expressed the achievements of SAVE and congratulated the success of vulture release and conservation, but was also concerned about the threat posed by new NSAIDs to vultures, highlighting the need for safety testing to prevent a repeat of the diclofenac crisis. Professor Karan Bahadur Shah, President of the Bird Conservation Nepal, warned that poison baits used to kill animals in Nepal were becoming a new risk to the vulture population, which is rebounding. He also praised the role of community ownership in Nepal’s conservation efforts.

SM Jahir Uddin Akon, from the Bangladesh Forest Department, reported that Ketoprofen is banned in Bangladesh and that vulture tagging has begun there.

Ms Ken Bopreang, Director of the Department of Biodiversity, Cambodia, discussed integrating the knowledge of partner organisations to aid vulture conservation efforts in the country. Dr Jo Gilbert, Conservation Program Director from RSPB, reported that breeding centres in India are doing well and that Nepal’s vulture population has slightly increased, demonstrating a safe environment for the birds. Dr Rewati Raman Poudel emphasized the Nepali government’s commitment to assisting conservation efforts and called for research to examine the effects of climate change on birds. He also wished the SAVE meeting success and expressed hope that the gathering would lead to future policies and programmes in the field of vulture conservation.

Dr Maheshwar Dhakal stressed the importance of transboundary conservation policies as well as ongoing efforts to achieve conservation goals and mitigate potential threats as he brought the inauguration ceremony to a close. He also mentioned how improving relationships with local communities can have a positive impact on any conservation program.

The SAVE meeting included six pre-planned sessions, with four of them taking place on the first day. The first session was chaired by Vinayagan Dharmarajah from BirdLife Asia and focused on SAVE and its vision. Chris Bowden from RSPB gave a presentation on the evolution and vision of SAVE, followed by presentations from each group head on the challenges they were facing. The session ended with a presentation on SAVE Blueprint Summary.

The second session, chaired by Mr. Abhishek Ghosal from BNHS India, focused on policy and advocacy in vulture conservation. Representatives from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan gave presentations on their advocacy and awareness programs for vulture conservation. The third session on fundraising was chaired by Ishtiaq Ahmad, with representatives from different countries sharing their ideas and opportunities for funding. The pre-dinner technical session chaired by Dr John Mallord covered pharmacy surveys being conducted in different countries.

On the second day, the remaining sessions were continued, starting with a technical session facilitated by Dr. John Mallord. Professor Green discussed the methodologies used for population estimation and counts for surveys, and country representatives provided brief information on population counts and nest monitoring. Ankit Bilash Joshi from Bird Conservation Nepal gave a presentation on vulture tagging and tracking, while Professor Green provided insights into the future of captive-bred vultures and the sustainability of the population. The technical session ended with Joshi’s presentation on the release methodology and process.

The final session focused on transboundary conservation in South Asian countries, with presentations on transboundary work from India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. After the session, Professor Rhys Green welcomed Ms. Jemima Parry-Jones as the new chair of SAVE, and the program ended with the awarding of the Disney Conservation Hero award to Dr. Vibhu Prakash for his contribution to vulture conservation in South Asia.

On 11th March there was a milestone celebratory event in Nepal with the last captive White-rumped Vultures being released from the breeding centre. More on this soon!

Leave a Comment