Community-based vulture safe zone management

White-Rumped vulture by its nest with chick, Rema-Kalenga Wildlife Sanctuary

Project title: Community-based vulture safe zone management in Bangladesh

Location: Different parts of Bangladesh, with emphasis on two Vulture Safe Zones

Duration: 2016 - 2017

Project Background: About 99.9% of vulture populations have disappeared from South-Asian countries over the last couple of decades. In Bangladesh, populations of the white-rumped vulture and Gyps vulture have declined drastically, leaving only about 260 individuals. The main reason for this severe decline are the fatal effects of Diclofenac and other veterinary drugs on scavenging vultures.

The Government of Bangladesh’s commitment to conserving vultures has been translated into the ban of veterinary Diclofenac drugs in 2010 and further steps have been taken to formally recognise Vulture Safe Zone initiatives. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has also taken the initiative to ban Ketoprofen and other unsafe drugs for vultures. In 2012, Bangladesh, along with several South Asian countries, formed the Regional Steering Committee (RSC) dedicated to trans-boundary collaboration in conserving the highly threatened vultures of South Asia. In 2013, the Ministry of Environment and Forests of Bangladesh launched the Bangladesh National Vulture Recovery Committee (BNVRC) which aimed to further the policy, advocacy, monitoring and supervision of the national vulture conservation initiatives. Since the inception of the BNVRC, the committee has held five meetings and adheres to specific Terms of Reference. The BNVRC has influenced, among other pivotal decisions, the formation of the first two government endorsed Vulture Safe Zones (VSZ) in Bangladesh, in December 2014, totaling 47,380.44 sq. km. Currently, the BNVRC is also working to ban Ketoprofen and formulate a Vulture Action Plan.

On recommendations of the BNVCR, IUCN Bangladesh and Bangladesh Forest Department has undertaken a two-year-long initiative from June 2014 to August 2016 funded by The World Bank. The declaration of VSZs has been a result of that joint initiative. This initiative also established baselines of vulture populations, identified hotspots, and conducted undercover pharmacy surveys. Despite the establishment of VSZs, the first undercover pharmacy survey conducted in 2014 showed harmful drugs making up 68% of veterinary drugs in the VSZs. To address this situation, campaigns, and motivational activities took place within the local communities, pharmacy owners and veterinary practitioners of the VSZs. The people-focused efforts have created a base for the reduction of harmful drug use, promotion of vulture-safe Meloxicam through private sector engagement, and formation of Vulture Conservation Teams (VCTs) at different tiers to manage the VSZs. The second undercover survey in 2015 revealed major progress, with no presence of the harmful Diclofenac in the VSZ-1 and only the presence of Ketoprofen was found. Overall, harmful drugs have been reduced by approximately 15% in the VSZ, indicating to the success of the awareness campaigns. 

The government-approved VCTs consist of three tiers ranging from local to district administrations and are comprised of individuals from a cross-section of the community and are directly interlinked with the MoEF and the BNVRC. The three tiers are, the District VCT, the Upazilla VCT, and the Village VCT. The Village VCT is responsible for implementation of the field works while the other two tiers are involved in advocacy and monitoring of the Village VCT. An action plan has been formulated envisaging long-term efforts to conserve the Critically Endangered vulture species.

The two-year-long initiative has shown encouraging progress by bringing together local people, Bangladesh Forest Department, veterinary drug sector and other stakeholders to conserve vultures through reduction of harmful drug use and habitat improvement. It is crucial to facilitate this forward momentum of motivated collaboration to strengthen the vulture conservation initiative that has already started. To build on the milestones achieved, further support is required and the proposed project will play a facilitation role, strengthening people's participation in conservation measures, putting legal instruments in place and engaging the government for the ultimate survival of vulture populations in Bangladesh. Furthermore, and most importantly, the reduction of the remaining harmful drugs and the use of safe drugs will be ensured.

Objectives of the project: The goal of the project is the effective participatory management of the Vulture Safe Zones with local people and stakeholders to significantly improve the populations of vulture in Bangladesh and consequently improve environmental health by restoring ecological balance.

Specific objectives of the project are:

  1. Significant reduction of the existing harmful drugs and increase the use of safe drugs in the VSZ by increasing private sector involvement and motivating the local stakeholders.
  2. Improvement of vulture habitats and increase in vulture population in the Vulture Safe Zones by: 
    • nest monitoring and protection
    • population census
    • running community-based feeding stations
  3. Proper and overall management of the Vulture Safe Zones by the Vulture Conservation Teams.
  4. Facilitation of the government and other agencies for stronger commitments towards vulture conservation.

Expected Outputs: The outcome of the project is to significantly and steadily improve the population trend of vultures in the two Vulture Save Zones of Bangladesh by July 2017. 

The outputs of the projects are:

  1. Reduction of Selling and use of veterinary drugs harmful to vultures drastically reduced in the Vulture Safe Zones.
  2. Vulture habitats significantly improved in the Vulture Safe Zones.
  3. Vulture Safe Zones managed by Vulture Conservation Teams (VCTs) at different tiers.
  4. Creation of enabling environments for vulture conservation through government-led initiatives. 

Donor: The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)

Partners:  Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF); Bangladesh Forest Department; Bangladesh National Vulture Recovery Committee (BNVRC)

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