Wildlife conservationists and environmental activists have sought the intervention of the Siliguri Municipal Corporation (SMC) in ensuring that the movement of the critically endangered vultures remains uninterrupted at the dumping grounds.
The civic body dumps animal carcasses on the grounds located at Jatiakali in Fulbari on the outskirts of the town. The private ground measuring more than 20 acre falls under the Fulbari-II gram panchayat.
“During a 14-day count of the vulture population from January, we have found the highest number of 276 birds at Jatiakhali. Most of them were the Himalayan griffon, while few were the slender-billed vultures and also White -rumped vultures. We are hopeful that the number of vultures has increased in the area.
The vultures feed on cattle carcasses, but the dumping of carcasses has been irregular there for the past few days. The SMC dumps the carcasses on the grounds,” said the chairman of the Solitary Nature & Animal Protection Foundation, Kaustabh Choudhury.
The organisation had conducted the study at Jatiakali using the point count sampling method, supported by the Wildlife Trust of India and the Baikunthapur forest division. Representatives of the SNAPF, Society for Protecting Ophiofauna & Animal Rights, and Optopic Siliguri met the chairperson of the board of administrators of the SMC, Gautam Deb, in this regard today.
According to them, vultures play a key role in the ecosystem as they are natural scavengers. “We have expressed our concerns. The area should be protected for the vultures. The vulture is an endangered species and has been listed in Schedule-1 under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and its population in India is fast dwindling,” Mr Choudhury said.
In Siliguri, the vulture population has faced a serious threat due to the rapid construction, power lines, mobile towers and other anthropogenic disturbances, conservationists say.
“We apprised Mr Deb that there has been irregular dumping of carcasses, and there should be regular dumping instead of burial on the grounds to ensure availability of food for the vultures. We have requested him to identify an alternative dumping site that will be free from construction activities, if necessary,” Mr Choudhury added.
“If constructions come up in the area, the movement of the vultures may be hit. In that case, an alternative ground will be required for the vultures. A request has also been made to depute a person from the local area there, who will monitor their movement and protect them from stray dogs. The person may inform us or the forest department in case of any injury of the birds so that immediate steps can be taken. He has told us that he would look into the issue and will also hold a meeting on it,” he said.
The conservationists also conducted sensitization programmes among the people at Jatiakali, Baikunthapur, Paharpur and other areas on the necessity to protect the birds of prey. Mr Choudhury said 34 vulture protection groups had been set up