Shopian: At least three endangered species of vultures in Shopian’s Hirpora wildlife sanctuary are at risk from power lines going through the sanctuary and presence of banned drug diclofenac in carcasses of animals.
Though officials have no count of the vultures living in the sanctuary, they have on record presence of breeds like Himalayan griffon vulture (near threatened), bearded vulture (near threatened), and Kashmir flycatcher (vulnerable).
A wildlife official, requesting to be not named, said that road connectivity along the sanctuary has brought more herds of cattle and sheep into the sanctuary. These domestic animals are often given diclofenac as painkillers, and the presence of this drug in their carcasses passes on to vultures when they eat the flesh.
Dr Ashiq Hussain, a veterinary doctor, told Kashmir Reader that diclofenac affects the vultures by not letting the eggs hatch. “It does not kill them of a sudden but affects their metabolism, prevents the egg hatching and thus the future breed,” he said, adding that this drug is a pain killer that is injected in animals to cure pain and problems of joints and bones.
Dr Ashiq said that dicofenac was banned only because it affects vultures and other birds when they consume it through a dead animal injected with it.
The wildlife official said that the number of vultures in the sanctuary has reduced enormously, like in other parts of India. The Hindu newspaper has quoted the Union Environment Minister, Prakash Javadekar, as saying that the population of vultures in India has reduced to just 19,000 from four crores in the last three decades.
Diclofenac has been banned by the government in 2006 but its illegal trade goes unabated as the drug is cheap and is effective as a painkiller.
Experts say that besides the toxic carcasses, the massive power lines running through the heart of the sanctuary are also posing a threat to the vultures and other big birds.
“The vultures have large wings and once they sit on the wire and spread their wings, the wings touch the parallel line and current from both ends instantly kills the bird,” said Muhammad Abid, an environmentalist.
Wildlife Warden of Hirpora sanctuary, Intisar Suhail, however told Kashmir Reader that the vultures in Hirpora wildlife sanctuary are flourishing. “The diclofenac has been banned long ago and I don’t think it is being used in animals,” he said.
On the power lines in the sanctuary, he said that the lines obviously are creating disturbance to the birds but not killing them. “It is a matter of research whether the wires are killing birds, but one thing is for sure that the wires make a certain noise and birds don’t go near them due to that,” he said.
Hirpora wildlife sanctuary is spread over 300 square kilometers and is abode of the famed Himalayan Markhor, Himalayan brown bear, Himalayan black bear, musk deer, leopard, Tibetan wolf, Himalayan palm civet and hundreds of other animals and birds. The sanctuary is also the main source of water for hundreds of villages in south Kashmir, and of precious medicinal herbs like Jogi-Badshah.