A Single Vulture Provides Scavenging Services Worth Around Rs 6 Lakhs

17 Feb, 2016

Vultures like in the Kanha-Pench Corridor have the ability to rapidly feed on carcasses. They take a primary role in an ecosystem, as a successful primary scavenging species. Once numbering in tens of millions, the population of Gyps vulture species have now been reduced by 99%.

Photo Credit: IUCN

The main reason behind their decline has been attributed to the Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID) ‘Diclofenac.’ This has been used specifically among livestock as a common drug to treat pain in domestic animals. Deceased carcass of livestock (with Diclofenac residues) when scavenged by vultures has been known to cause renal failure in vultures. Substitutes for Diclofenac in the markets are available specifically Meloxicam that treats cattle in the same way without harming the vulture population. The decline in vultures has also resulted in an increase in the expenditure by the state putting in place appropriate and alternative like carcasses rendering plants.

Is it economically sound to build a new waste management system to dispose carcasses or breed and re-introduce vultures? The findings of the ‘Economic Assessment of Ecosystem Services Provided by Vultures: A case study from the Kanha-Pench Corridor, Central India’ carried under ‘The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity- India Initiative (TII)’ highlight that “scavenging ability of 300 pairs of vultures is close to the processing potential of a medium carcass disposal plant i.e. approximately 60 carcasses per week. Thus, it is economically prudent to invest in the breeding and reintroduction of vultures and maintenance of Vulture Safe Zones (VSZ) instead of investing in carcass disposal plants.”

TII is supported by the project ‘Incentives for Sustainable Management of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (ISBM).' The Project is supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and is being implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. Following an open ‘Call for Concept Notes’, the ISBM Project commissioned 14 field studies dealing with the three priority ecosystems:

  • Forests: The TII studies deal with issues such as hidden ecosystem services of forests, conflicts between humans and wildlife, and the economic consequences of species decline. (Read more)
  • Inland Wetlands: The TII studies draw lessons on water resources management, community stewardship and equity, and economics of hydrological regime of changes. (Read more)
  • Coastal and Marine Ecosystems: The TII studies explore the opportunities and economic efficiency of interventions such as eco-labelling, seasonal fishing ban, mangrove regeneration, and the challenge of bycatch in marine fisheries. (Read more)

TII aims at making the values of biodiversity and the linked ecosystem services explicit for consideration and mainstreaming into developmental planning. The Project’s approach ensures that recommendations emerging from these studies can be integrated into the development of policies for conservation and sustainable use of the selected ecosystems.

To read more on the story, please visit:

Birds dying in India: When's the vulture does not bring- SPIEGEL ONLINE PANORAMA

Scientists say a vulture’s services worth over Rs 5 lakh: The Hindustan Times