The decline of vultures in India
The vulture decline was first noticed in 1999 (Prakash, 1999 as cited in Prakash,et al, 2003), but actions to reverse the situation could not be taken before the cause was identified. In the mean time, the number of vultures was decreasing at an annual rate of 43.9% for G. bengalensis and 16.1% for G. indicus and G. tenuistrosis (Gilbert, et al., 2002; Prakash, et al., 2003; Green, et al., 2004; Prakash, et al., 2007).Post-mortem analysis showed that vultures were dying because of the veterinary drug diclofenac (Green, et al., 2004; Oaks, et al., 2004; Shultz, et al., 2004), a non-steroidal anti- inflammatory (NSAID) drug administered to cattle. When vultures feed on cattle carcasses that have been recently treated with diclofenac, they suffer kidney failure and die (Green et al., 2004; Oaks et al., 2004; Shultz et al., 2004). Although the situation was already critical for the three vulture species, it wasn‟t until May 2006 that the Indian Government banned diclofenac (Taggart, et al., 2007). Unfortunately, recent research findings show that the drug is still widely available (O'Driscoll, 2008).In order to restore the populations of G. bengalensis, G. indicus and G. tenuirostris, three conservation breeding centers have been established, but more are required because of the low reproductive rate of Gyps and the continuing decline in their wild populations (Markandya, et al., 2008).A number of ecological, social and economic costs are associated with the decline of Indian vultures. The removal from the ecosystem of the most effective and highly specialized scavenger means that carcasses remain longer out in the open. Rotting carcasses are a major source of contamination for humans (Markandya, et al., 2008). Moreover, vultures are culturally important for Hindus, but mostly for Parsees, a small community of Zoroastrians that came to India around 1,000 AD. Parsees, in order to avoid contaminating the elements, rely on vultures to remove the flesh from the bodies of their dead (Boyce, 1979).Although vultures are a keystone species in nature, their catastrophic decline has received little attention both in India and internationally. Richard Cuthbert of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said:1...Everyone interested in conservation, quite rightly knows about the plight of India's tigers, but in the race towards extinction the vultures will get there far sooner! (“RSPB”, 2009)The lack of media attention means that little money is directed towards vulture conservation. Unfortunately, the fact that they feed on decaying flesh might make them unpopular with some people so vultures are not an easy subject for animal campaigners.This „injustice‟ against a species, whose decline has serious health, cultural and economic implications in India, was the reason for Siddharth Nambiar and the author decide to make the documentary The Fall of Jataayu. The aim of the film is not only to inform the public about the catastrophic plight of vultures and the tremendous consequences on humans, but also to become a means of generating action leading to vulture conservation. In this thesis, I document the vulture decline in India and I argue that a film, like The Fall of Jatayuu, has the potential to bring positive action, and could become an invaluable tool for scientists and activists. I will provide evidence of how documentaries have been used throughout history to influence public attitudes and evaluate their impact.
Advisor: johnston, Andrew Ross
Degree Name: Master of Science Communication
Degree Discipline: Centre for Science Communication
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Film; social; action; vultures; india
Research Type: Thesis