Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Scavengers nouveau

Dead cattle in India are skinned and left out for vultures to pick clean - eating cow meat is strictly forbidden in the country. The large resident vultures in India are all but gone - victims apparently to a veterinary drug that remained in these cattle carcasses. Crows and dogs have taken over in their stead, alongside a small-sized vulture - the Scavenger or Egyptian Vulture (middle photo). Villagers admit that the dog population has increased significantly since the disappearance of the larger vultures, but no one has paid attention to the crows. Both are predators as well - crows are very efficient nest predators and packs of dogs take down anything they can including Sarus Cranes and Nilgais. The Egyptian Vultures is widespread with good breeding populations in Uttar Pradesh and there is no information how its population here is doing relative to years with good vulture populations. While crows and dogs also scavenged before the larger vultures declined, they had access to much lesser amounts of food due to the aggressive habits of the vultures that dissuaded other smaller scavengers from accessing too much meat.

Surely, it should be a concern that continued disposal of cattle carcasses may be affecting entire communities of birds and other wildlife on the farmstead!

(Photograph information
: large-billed crow - Etah district, Jan 8, 2009; Egyptian Vulture - Barabanki district, Nov 23, 2008; crows and dogs - Rae Bareli district, Nov 29, 2008)

No comments:

Post a Comment