Raptor Friday – Last Hope for Disappearing Vultures

There are enough roadkills, but why are vultures absent from our skies? An independent filmmaker explores the reasons
Himalayan Griffons engage in a scuffle

Several animals are killed in road accidents but we hardly see any vultures hovering above and swooping down for a cleanup operation. Ever wondered why? Neloy Bandyopadhyay’s film on vulture conservation The Last Hope aims to highlight why these efficient scavengers are absent from our skies. Anand Yegnaswami catches up with the man and his work.

Excerpts from an interview to The Green Ogre:

Could you please share in your words what the film “The Last Hope” was about?

The Last Hope is a film about the relentless struggle of vulture conservationists in India and this subcontinent where activists are fighting a tough battle to protect this great scavenger bird from the brink of extinction. The film is made to create awareness about the importance of the vulture in nature, and against the use of a drug which is the main reason for the [decline] of the vultures.

On the sets of the film

Why did you pick vultures as your subject?

The scenario of the numbers of vultures in India is worrisome. If we don’t take proper action right away, we will probably lose this great bird forever. The vulture doesn’t have the great looks of the tiger, lion or rhino, but from an importance perspective it’s a great bird.

Why are vultures such an important part of the ecosystem and what is the need to protect them?

Vultures play a crucial role in the food chain. They eat carcasses. In India, and the subcontinent, it has been an age-old practice to [dispose of] dead domestic animals in the dumpyard. Vultures can eat an animal the size of a bull within an hour and leave little chance for diseases to spread.

A hide used to film vultures at a carcass without disturbing them

Could you elaborate on the vulture conservation efforts that you came across while making the film?

The killer drug [Dicofenac] has been banned. Some NGOS are working towards vulture conservation. Bombay National History Society is working on a captive breeding programme. However, we have a lot to do to save this species.
Himalayan Griffons

What are the factors hampering vulture conservation? Are there threats other than Diclofenac that pose a danger to the vulture population?

Diclofenac is the main reason. To save vultures we have to ban the use of this drug. Today, Diclofenac meant for humans is being used on cattle.

Long-billed Vultures at a nest

How long will it take for the vulture population to bounce back from the effects of Diclofenac?

Unfortunately, the breeding cycle of vultures is pretty slow. They lay one egg per breeding cycle. We have to take extra precaution and we have to phase out Diclofenac immediately and completely. If we can do that I am sure the vulture population will [be restored] to a substantial number.

During the making of the film

Now that you have completed this film, how do you plan to get the message of conservation across?

Broadcast this film as much as possible.

Neloy works as a IT security consulting manager in Bangalore. He is a nature lover and wildlife enthusiast with a passion for cinematography and photography. In addition to The Last Hope, Neloy has also filmed a documentary on Snow Leopard conservation, An Unavoidable Disagreement.

Anand Yegnaswami is an IT professional and an intrepid nature enthusiast. He has contributed previously to The Green Ogre.

All photographs in this post are the copyrighted property of Neloy Bandyopadhyay and are used here with his kind permission.

This is a special edition of our series Raptor Friday. Read more about vultures and diclofenac in The Green Ogre archives.


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