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Importance of vultures in our ecosystem

  Mar 13, 2023

Importance of vultures in our ecosystem

Q Why is it in News ?

A India lost more than 95% of its vulture population through the 1990s and by the mid-2000s. Today, the country requires urgent conservation efforts to save vultures from becoming extinct.

Q What are some details about vultures ?

  • Vultures belong to the Accipitridae family whose members include eagles, hawks and kites.
  • They are relatively social birds with an average lifespan of 10-30 years in the wild.
  • Vultures are slow breeders and so the survival of every individual is very crucial.
  • Generally, vultures rely on other carnivores to open carcasses.
  • Their powerful bills and long slender necks are designed to help them tear off the meat chunks from inside the carcass.
  • India has nine species of vultures. Many are critically endangered.
  • Vultures have a highly acidic stomach that helps them digest rotting carcass and kill disease-causing bacteria.

Q What is role played by vultures in ecosystem ?


  • Removing vultures from the ecosystem leads to inefficient clearing of carcasses and contaminates water systems.
  • If dead animals are left to rot for long durations, it may give rise to disease-causing pathogens.
  • The animals that consume such flesh become further carriers of disease.
  • Thus, they play a crucial role in maintaining the health of the ecosystem.

Q What are factors responsible for decline in future population ?

  • India has nine species of vultures. Many are critically endangered.
  • Use of diclofenac: The main reason for the decline in the vulture population is the use of the drug, diclofenac.
  • Diclofenac, which relieves cattle of pain, is toxic to vultures even in small doses and causes kidney failure and death.
  • Hunting: Myths about the medicinal healing powers of vultures’ body parts has led to the hunting of vultures.
  • Quarrying: Quarrying and blasting of stones where vultures nest have also caused their decline.

Q What Steps have been taken to  conserve Vultures ? 

  • India banned diclofenac for veterinary use in 2006.
  • Five States are to get vulture breeding centres under the Action Plan for Vulture Conservation for 2020-2025, approved in October 2020.
  • Vulture ‘restaurants’, which exist in some countries, are also a way of preserving the population.
  • In these ‘restaurants’, diclofenac-free carcasses of cattle are dumped in designated areas where vultures gather to feed.

Q What can be Way Forward ? 

A Awareness and action must go hand in hand. Then it is important for us to spread awareness about the importance of vultures in our ecosystem.