On Thursday, the 11th annual general assembly of Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction (SAVE) in Nepal established the world’s first Vulture Safe Zone (VSZ). Conserve is a collaboration of 24 organizations striving to save the world’s most endangered vultures.
SAVE’s Nepali partners include the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), and Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN).
In 2009, Nepal pioneered a world-first initiative by establishing a Vulture Safe Zone.
According to a news release issued by the SAVE, the VSZ concept arose from some great conservation efforts to build diclofenac-free areas employing a district-by-district, province-by-province method from West to East across the country.
A VSZ is a diclofenac-free zone that surrounds one or more wild vulture nesting colonies and is broad enough to span the mean feeding range. In Nepal, ongoing conservation efforts have been successful in reducing diclofenac abuse.
Professor Rhys Green, SAVE’s chair, has emphasized the successful removal of diclofeanc from the environment and its influence on vulture population recovery in Nepal.
He showed 14 years of statistics showing a decrease in diclofenac sales in veterinary pharmacies, a rise in meloxicam sales (the vulture-safe alternative to diclofenac), and an increase in white-rumped and slender-billed vultures.
Dr. Ramchandra Kandel, Director General of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, said, “This is a great achievement of creating a safe environment for the threatened vulture species in Nepal, and it is only possible because of the integrated approach of the government, conservation partners, and local communities.”
In 2006, the Nepalese government banned the manufacture and use of veterinary diclofenac and developed and implemented the Vulture Conservation Action Plan for Nepal 2009-13 and 2015-19.
“This favorable change was not just due to the diclofenac ban. We spent a lot of time lobbying for vulture conservation and teaching communities about the dangers of vulture-toxic NSAIDs “Krishna Bhusal, a member of the IUCN Vulture Specialist Group, agreed.
“Our goal was to get rid of diclofenac in Nepal and prevent another vulture-toxic NSAID from replacing it.”
“We were able to do this through a wide-ranging engagement program with communities, local decision-makers and authorities, veterinarians and farmers, local conservation organizations, and national media outlets,” he added.
Vulture recovery in Asia will be aided if small but important residual vulture populations can be protected and retained in the wild by establishing Vulture Safe Zones.
VSZs are now being implemented in Cambodia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, as well as in African countries, following this pattern.