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Conservationists in Nepal have opened a special “restaurant” to offer safe food to vultures, whose existence is being threatened from eating carcasses of cattle treated with drugs. 

Scientists says South Asia’s vultures are on the brink of extinction largely due to farmers dosing their cattle with diclofenac, a drug used to treat inflammation, poisoning the scavenging birds one step up the food chain. 

Numbers of Oriental white-backed, long-billed and slender-billed vultures in the region have plummeted. 

The vulture population in Nepal is estimated to have fallen to a mere 500 nesting pairs from at least 50,000 pairs in 1990, according to a local conservation group, Bird Conservation Nepal. 

But now a special feeding centre set up by the conservation group at Kawasoti, about 100 km (60 miles) southwest of the capital, Kathmandu, is trying to ensure vultures get a chance to eat chemical-free cattle carcasses. 

 

After establishing the Kawasoti feeding centre, BCN conducted a massive awareness campaign in the district. As farmers started sending old cows to the farm, it focused on building a new feeding centre. 

The new ‘restaurant’ came up at Panchanagar village. With awareness about the harmful effects of Diclofenac spreading, the locals have come forward to run the new project. 

Though BCN provided the seed money of Nepali Rs.50,000 to start the new farm, it is now being run by the villagers themselves. BCN is eyeing three more districts that have large nesting colonies of vultures: Kanchanpur, Kapilavastu and Bardiya. 

  

BCN is also lobbying the government to effectively implement the ban on Diclofenac. 

After the drug was banned last June, it raised Rs.200,000 to buy the new drug, Meloxicam, and gave the new stock to drug stores in place of the killer drug. 

BCN is also concerned that Nepal is being used as a dumping ground for Diclofenac manufactured in India. After the Indian government banned the use of the drug in the subcontinent, unscrupulous dealers instead of destroying the stock have been smuggling it across the open border to Nepal.BCN has more ambitious plans for the vulture. 

  

The Terai plains lying along the Indo-Nepal border have pockets where large vulture colonies nestle. As the feeding farms spread, the NGO plans to build watchtowers near the centres, from where both bird lovers and tourists can watch the birds feed. 

 

 

 

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