Final releases of captive birds in Nepal

On March 11, 2023, a vulture conservation milestone event took place in Nepal, immediately after the successful conclusion of the SAVE meeting. The last remaining captive-reared White-rumped Vultures from the Nepal breeding were all released, having been fitted with GPS/GSM Ornitela tags on their backs and aluminium red leg rings with individual alphanumeric codes. In addition, 10 more wild-caught White-rumped Vultures (6 subadult and 4 adult) were similarly tagged and marked.

The captive vultures were released from the soft release aviary by remotely opening the exit gate using a pulley from behind the observation hide. This was the seventh and final captive vulture release event in Nepal, bringing the total number of released White-rumped Vultures with tags to 139 (69 captive and 70 wild birds).

The program began with the gates opening at the release site. The chief guest, Mr. Mahendra Dhoj GC, along with Haribhadra Acharya (Chief Conservation Officer, Chitwan National Park), Chris Bowden (SAVE Programme Manager), Prof. Karan Bahadur Shah (President of BCN, NTNC, BZMC), DB Chaudhary (Coordinator, Jatayu Restaurant) and the SAVE team pulled a rope to remotely open the release aviary door. The aviary door was opened at 9:27 AM, and the first captive bird with aluminium leg ring J03 exited into the wild at 9:33 AM. Four more vultures with leg rings J04, J08, J09, and J10 all exited at 10:35 AM, and by 11:38 AM all ten birds were out in the world. All released birds have already demonstrated good short distance flights and landing abilities, and several have already been observed soaring.

The event was successfully concluded with a brief formal program at the Jatayu office premise. Mr. DB Chaudhary chaired the release program, and Mr. Mahendra Dhoj GC, a parliament member from Gandaki Province, was the chief guest. The program included speeches from Chris Bowden (SAVE Manager), Dr. Hum Gurung (BirdLife Asia), Mr. Haribhadra Acharya (Chief Conservation Officer, CNP), Mr. Raj Kumar Rai (Treasurer, BCN), and Mr. Lal Bahadur Gurung (Ward President, Kawasoti Municipality Ward No. 13). The speeches highlighted the importance of vultures, the success of the release of tagged vultures in Nepal, and the need to conserve vultures while eliminating other potential threats. Special vigilance is needed for other veterinary drugs, such as nimesulide, that could jeopardise the huge achievements. The event also included traditional indigenous Tharu culture and delicious food, and was attended by more than 100 representatives from Government and Non-Government Organizations, Nepal Army, CFUG, women’s groups, cooperatives, CBAPU and local media.

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