Wild adult white-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis) in flight.Pinjore, Haryana, India

Nearly saved?

Chris Bowden, Head of the RSPB's vulture programme, delivers news of recent successes and a new arrival.

On the right track

"Our work to bring three Asian species of vulture back from the brink of extinction has progressed a great deal recently, and (dare we say it) there's a growing feeling that we will be able to say we've saved them before too long.

The latest road transect surveys across India and Nepal showed a significant slowing in the declines and even some signs of localised populations starting to recover. This ties in with the news that the veterinary use of diclofenac, which poisons the birds as they feed on animal carcasses, has halved since 2006. It confirms that we are on the right track. 

There's been huge effort involved in gathering this information: systematically counting the vultures across the Indian sub-continent and taking samples from rotting cattle carcasses, plus advocacy work and checking the drug availability in pharmacies.

Funding success

The Vulture Safe Havens programme has shown real signs of progress in Nepal and is picking up in several areas of India, thanks to funding from the Save Our Species project and Darwin Initiative.

It is very much a partnership project, including the Neo-Human Foundation, key individuals Ms Ruchi Dave and Mr Kartik Shastri, and the Mahseer Conservancy to name a few, all working through the Bombay Natural History Society.

Breeding figures on the up

Monitoring vultures in these 100 km radius areas is only one element of the work. There's a lot to do to reach all the authorities and practitioners involved. We've brought birds into the safety of captivity and successfully started breeding programmes, to ensure there are some birds to release.

A report by the Saving Asian Vultures from Extinction (SAVE) group, which updates the most urgent needs for vultures, is being circulated more widely and engaging more local initiatives to help save them. Building this body of support is key.

Finally, last year's breeding figures from the centres continued the upward trend, with a total of 26 fledglings from the Indian centres, including chicks from all three threatened species, the world's first artificial incubation of a slender-billed vulture, and the first breeding at the relatively newer centre in Assam. 

You are a huge part of these successes. We can't play our part without your support – thank you."

- Chris Bowden, Head of the RSPB's vulture programme