Delhi High Court urges Center to take action to save vultures

The Delhi High Court on Friday asked the Center to consider a petition raising concerns about the declining vulture population and asked it to take action to save the bird which is an important link in the food chain.

The petition alleged that a veterinary drug, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), was the cause of the decline. The drug, the petition says, is used in livestock and when vultures feed on livestock carcasses they are exposed to toxic levels of the drug.

A high court bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and also including Justice Navin Chawla issued an opinion to the Centre, Central Organization for Drug Standards Control, National Drugs Authority Biodiversity, Indian Veterinary Research Institute as well as Natural History Society Bombay on Public Interest Litigation by Barrister Gaurav Kumar Bansal and asked for their response.

It read: ‘We request respondent 1-3 (Centre) to consider the aspect raised by the petitioner in the petition and take all necessary measures to save the vultures which are an important link in the food chain and are essential to maintaining the environment. The answer must be filed in four weeks.”

The petitioner has called for the protection and conservation of vultures and claimed that there are certain veterinary drugs on the market which are harmful and toxic to these birds and yet no serious effort has been made by the authorities so far to ban them.

The PIL said: “The main cause and perhaps the only cause of the decline of the vulture population in India is the veterinary use of NSAIDs in cattle. Vultures are exposed to a toxic level of NSAIDs when they feed on carcasses of livestock that have died days after treatment and contain residues of said NSAIDs.

The petitioner said that vultures are an endangered species under the Biological Diversity Act and that there is a need not only to ban toxic drugs but also to create an effective mechanism to test new molecules for safety before they are introduced for veterinary and human purposes.

According to the Bombay Natural History Society, the population of white-backed vultures and long-billed vultures had declined by more than 92% between 1991 and 1993 and also in 2000. According to another study, in 2007, the population of white-backed vultures had declined by an astonishing 99.9% for the eastern vulture and the long-billed vulture, the PIL said.

The petition also pointed out that the loss of vultures could be catastrophic for any ecosystem and that the birds are important to Hindu and Zoroastrian religions.

(With PTI inputs)

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