India has launched a vulture breeding and conservation programme for the Himayalan Griffons, aiming at a manifold increase in the number of wild vultures.
Asia's first `Gyps vulture reintroduction programme' is being carried out by the government of Haryana in Pinjore.
"With the success the programme has become, I believe we would again touch the number of four crore vultures in the country in the next 10 years,'' union environment minister Prakash Javadekar said while speaking at the release of a batch of vultures into the wild.
Javadekar along with the Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal jointly released two Himalayan Griffons into the wild from the Jatayu Conservation Breeding Centre, Pinjore.
''When they lifted the front netting giving the captive Himalayan Griffons the option of joining the wild Griffons, the released vultures readily stepped outside and joined the wild vultures,'' an environment ministry release stated.
Javadekar lauded the support extended by the Haryana government in reintroduction of the programme. He said the government has fixed a target of increasing the existing forest cover in the country to 33 per cent.
The union minister described the breeding and conservation of vultures as a significant step in the direction of saving the species. ''It is a matter of concern that the species of vulture has become endangered. Most vultures have disappeared and the reason is Diclofenac, a painkiller drug given to cattle, which can kill birds. When vultures feed on the carcasses of animals with Diclofenac, they also die (See: Indian vultures face extinction due to diclofenac poisoning). Later the drug was banned by the government.
''As vultures play a vital role in keeping the environment clean, their breeds should be increased and the government is constantly working to increase their numbers. Haryana and other states are also working in the direction of conservation of vultures, he added.
Speaking on the occasion, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal said the state government is formulating a scheme to conserve forests in the state. Besides various schemes in the Shivalik hills, the 500-meter area around Mangar Bani has been declared 'no construction zone' by the state government. The government is also formulating a scheme to develop Herbal Park in 500 acres of land in Morni.
Javadekar later handed over 10 captive bred vultures, which have siblings at the centre, to field director, Van Vihar National Park, Madhya Pradesh, A K Srivastava, as a part of the genetic management of captive vulture population.
The Himalayan Griffon is closely related to the critically endangered resident Gyps species of vultures but is not endangered. Two Himalayan Griffons have been in captivity for over 10 years and have been in the aviary with resident Gyps vultures. These birds were wing-tagged and were leg-ringed for identification.
Those present on this occasion included the Haryana forests and wildlife minster, Rao Narbir Singh, MLAs Latika Sharma and Gian Chand Gupta, principal secretary, forests, Amit Jha, director-general of forests, Government of India and other senior officials.