Rare sighting

Print edition : May 21, 2010

A Slender-billed vulture. This was a solitary bird in a larger group of White-rumped vultures.-SUVRASHIS SARKAR

THE Slender-billed Gyps tenuirostris is the rarest of the Gyps vultures. It is said to be rarer and more threatened than the tiger in India.

Estimates in 2008 put its wild population at a mere 1,000. In 2009, two chicks were born in captivity, the first to be so born. But if drastic action is not taken, the extinction of the species in the wild is imminent. The catastrophic decline of the species would be the fastest recorded rate of decline for any species.

The accompanying photograph of a Slender-billed vulture in the wild was taken by wildlife enthusiast and bird photographer Suvrashis Sarkar near Kolkata last year. The lone Slender-billed was spotted in a larger group of White-rumped vultures.

Chris Bowden, who heads the Asian Vulture Programme of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), found the sighting a rare one but cautioned against reading too much into it since it was a single bird out of its known range from Assam and the north of West Bengal. Dr Asad Rahmani, Director of the BNHS, said the Slender-billed had been reported from Kolkata regions, so its sighting there is not unusual but nevertheless interesting looking at its rarity.

Lyla Bavadam

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