From: Reuters
Published January 9, 2007 12:00 AM

Rare Asian Vulture Bred in Captivity for First Time

NEW DELHI -- An endangered species of vulture has been bred in captivity for the first time, a conservationist group said, cheering those trying to rescue the South Asian bird from the brink of extinction.

The Oriental white-backed vulture chick hatched at a breeding centre last week in Pinjore, in the north Indian state of Haryana, Britain's Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said.

"The hatching of this vulture chick is a hugely important milestone," Chris Bowden, head of the RSPB's Vulture Conservation Programme, said in a statement late on Monday.

Numbers of South Asia's Oriental white-backed, long-billed and slender-billed vultures have plummeted by more than 97 percent in the last 15 years, the RSPB says.

Scientists say the decline is largely due to farmers dosing their cattle with diclofenac, a drug used to treat inflammation, poisoning the scavenging birds one step up the food chain.

India banned the production and sale of diclofenac in May last year, but implementation of the ban has been slow. The RSPB says it will be at least a decade before diclofenac is no longer a threat.

"(It) shows that the vulture breeding programme really can help save the vultures once diclofenac is removed from the environment," Bowden said.

India has also been successfully breeding in captivity the slender-billed vulture -- another of the three threatened species -- since 2005.

Source: Reuters

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