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Why You Should Love Vultures Part 4: a role for WVI

The veterinary needs of vulture conservation have changed, as WVI Veterinary Advisor Nic Masters tells us in the video clip below. The conservation efforts are moving away from emergency captive breeding and rearing and more towards looking after wild and released birds. There is now much more in-country veterinary expertise and so WVI will look to play an overarching, supportive role as the work moves into its next phase.

Vulture Veterinary Network

In the immediate future, we expect funds raised from this #Vets4Vultures campaign to support essential health checks for the insurance population of oriental white-rumped vultures in India.

Together with Bombay Natural History Society, RSPB, ZSL, Himalayan Wellness, ICPB and other SAVE* consortium members, we will be looking to build a network of vets based across India that these Vulture Breeding Centres can call upon for any issues with wild or captive birds. The Annual Health Checks will provide the first opportunity to start building this team. In practical terms this could be contributing international expertise and ensuring the attendance of the right Indian vets to receive specific training in vulture medicine. We have already identified a number of vets within India who are keen to learn and be part of that network.

* Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction 

Operation Avian

Further down the line, we would like to integrate the Vulture Veterinary Network to the Operation Avian conference, which this year hat we ran in conjunction with RAKSHA Jaipur in January. Operation Avian was set up to give vets avian medicine and surgery training, particularly those who are likely to come across vultures, and other endangered bird species, in a rehabilitation setting. We will be looking specifically to invite vets working with wildlife close to the Vulture Breeding Centres, to Operation Avian 2024.

Vet Ashley Clayton and veterinary nurse Matt Rendle operating on an Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus)

Gone from living memory

As vultures have been at extremely low numbers for over a human generation, they are disappearing from our living memory. Twenty to thirty year olds in Asia have not grown up with vultures as part of their environment. With that in mind, Operation Avian programmes will include education on the demise of vultures and why it is imperative that they are conserved.

Learning from those that died

Longer term, ther possibilities for WVI include facilitating a pathology workshop for all SAVE consortium members, and developing a wider health surveillance programme to work across the Asian vultures range - India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Cambodia.

New threats

Vultures that have been reared or bred in captivity and then released into the wild will be confronted by new hazards. These include predation, flying into electric cables and exposure to infectious diseases they haven't encountered before. Diseases such as avian influenza and Newcastle’s Disease were not as prevalent when there were large numbers of vultures and so the threats are largely unknown.

WVI is in an ideal position to identify the current expertise and enthusiasm in order to create and underpin partnerships to investigate some of these new threats. We can use our network of international and range state experts to ensure the knowledge and skills to save vultures and help them thrive once more are where they are needed most: on the conservation frontline.

Find out more about the One Health concept, why vultures are so misunderstood and why they are the best animals for the job - because nobody does it better - and the conservation story so far.

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