Vultures, their population status and some ecological aspects in an Indian stronghold
Indian vultures have important ecological and socio-economic functions and are increasingly studied, per their ecological role and recently, their catastrophic populationsâ€™ decline. However, there are few studies of vultures in central India, a vulture stronghold. The present paper examined the presence, distribution per landcover variation, roosting and nesting habits of vultures in this region. Both quantitative (total count) and qualitative (questionnaire survey) methods of research were applied. The hypotheses were that vulture presence is higher in forested areas, unaffected by agricultural development (excepting the Egyptian vulture); as well as that vultures are more likely to roost and nest in large trees and on cliffs in open landcover. Vulture species recorded in summer and winter counts were the Long-billed vulture (Gyps indicus, Scopoli, 1786), Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus, Linnaeus, 1758), White-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis, Gmelin, 1788), Eurasian Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus, Hablizl, 1783), Red-headed vulture (Sarcogyps calvus, Scopoli, 1786), Cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus, Linnaeus, 1766) and Himalayan Griffon vulture (Gyps himalayensis, Hume, 1869). Their average total abundance was of 7,028 individuals, maximum being Long-billed vulture (3,351) and minimum being Cinereous vulture (39). Thematic maps documented distributions in different agroclimatic regions and ecozones. Orography and forest structure influenced vulture presence, but human disturbance did not. Vulture protection, food monitoring and human-induced disturbances are manageable with critical, informed and flexible policies. These findings contribute to monitoring and management planning for vulture conservation in Central India and elsewhere.
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