Nepal’s Critically Endangered vultures are starting to recover

White-rumped Vulture © Deepak Sankat

Fantastic news for the White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis and Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris, whose populations have finally started to recover after huge declines. This is encouraging proof that Nepal’s Vulture Safe Zones (VSZs) are working. The VSZ initiative uses awareness-raising and advocacy to end the sale of diclofenac – a painkiller for livestock, but deadly to vultures that scavenge their carcasses. Surveys show that White-rumped Vulture numbers have begun to increase since 2013, and Slender-billed Vultures since 2012. Undercover investigations in pharmacies show that sales of diclofenac (outlawed in 2006) had also been successfully phased out around this time. This demonstrates that community engagement – combined with the provision of safe, non-toxic food – has the potential to help prevent vulture extinctions.