Poison bait deaths in Nepal and Bangladesh highlight value of tagging

Following the recent release of the final captive birds in Nepal, it was devastating to hear that a poisoning bait incident had happened nearby.

On the morning of 13th March, 2023, six White-rumped Vultures were discovered dead in Kerunga River near the dumping site of Kawasoti Municipality. The authorities, including the Division Forest office, Chitwan National Park, Local Police, Nepal Army, Community Forest User Groups, BCN, Jatayu, and a veterinary doctor from NTNC, were immediately informed and rushed to the scene for investigation. It was discovered that the vultures had consumed the poisoned carcass of two Golden Jackals, which had been killed to protect livestock.

Vulture carcasses found, BCN

One of the dead vultures was a captive bred White-rumped Vulture released in October 2019, which was very active and frequently foraged from the nesting site to the feeding/release site.

Three White-rumped Vultures and one Himalayan Griffon Vulture were taken to the vulture rescue centre where they were treated for poisoning. The next day a more detailed search was conducted in the area, which was close to the nesting. No dead chicks were found in the nesting colony, but two White-rumped Vultures and one Egyptian Vulture were found dead nearby. Two White-rumped Vultures were rescued in a weak condition, and one of them died the following day at the rescue centre. The other rescued vultures’ conditions improved, and they were released on 22nd March after being closely monitored and fitted with leg rings. In total ten White-rumped Vultures and one Egyptian Vulture died.

Treatment of rescued vulture in the field, BCN

On 22nd March in Bangladesh concern was raised when Rema, the White-rumped Vulture tagged in October, stopped moving. At this time IUCN Bangladesh dispatched a team to find out the situation and by following the signal from the tag, Rema was located dead in a tree. Searches conducted during that day and the following day discovered a total 14 vulture carcasses ((twelve White-rumped Vultures and two Himalayan Griffon Vultures).

Rema, the poisoned White-rumped Vulture, IUCN Bangladesh

After gathering evidence and conducting local interviews, it is understood that a poison bait (goats laced with pesticide) had been used to target feral dogs and jackals after a recent livestock attack. Several dogs, kites, and jackals from the area consumed the poisoned goat and subsequently died and the vultures probably died from consuming the poisoned dead bodies.

These incidents highlight how we can learn about mortality causes through close monitoring of tagged birds. It also emphasises the need for better awareness and implementation of laws protecting wildlife, and how alternative measures should be taken to prevent the loss of livestock. In most of the poisoning cases, people are found to have targeted other species rather than vultures, but vultures are unfortunately collateral damage in these cases. These cases emphasize the importance of vulture conservation and the need for strengthening vulture-safe zones to ensure the restoration of robust populations in the wild.

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Nepal’s vultures, recovering from a poisoning crisis, fly into another

Content from Ankit Joshi, BCN and Sarowar Alam, IUCN Bangladesh

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