Archive for the ‘Lecture Notes’ Category

Endangered White-rumped Vultures in Nepal

Monday, November 20th, 2017

The big moment: Nepal releases its first ever captive-reared vultures

Six captive-reared Critically Endangered White-rumped Vultures have ventured out into the wild. This comes at a time when the world is finally waking up to the plight of vultures.

A captive-reared White-rumped Vulture takes its first unrestricted flight © Jyotendra Thakuri
A captive-reared White-rumped Vulture takes
its first unrestricted flight © Jyotendra Thakuri

By Jessica Law

The moment has finally arrived. Bait is placed outside the entrance of the pre-release aviary, and the door is opened from a remote hide. As wild vultures descended to feed, five out of our six yellow-tagged protagonists are lured outside to join in in the scrum. Soon they are squabbling and interacting with them as if they’d always been part of the gang. And, in a way, they had – in the weeks before their release, they had been socialising with wild vultures through the wire while exercising their wings.

Satellite-tagged newcomers gorge on their first wild meal alongside wild vultures © Rajendra Guring

Satellite-tagged newcomers gorge on their first wild meal
alongside wild vultures © Rajendra Guring

It’s been a fantastic couple of months for vultures. In October 2017, the ambitious Multi-species Action Plan to save 15 vulture species over 128 countries was endorsed with enthusiasm at the Convention on Migratory Species Conference of Parties in Manila. At almost exactly the same time in India, the Madras high Court ruled to uphold the dosage restriction on vulture-killing drug diclofenac. And last week, in Nepal, six captive-reared White-rumped Vultures were finally released into a wild that, for the first time in decades, could be truly vulture-safe.

On the 9th of November, scientists and officials gathered to watch conservation history being made, with South Asia’s first ever release of captive-reared Critically Endangered birds. For years, Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN, BirdLife in Nepal) and RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), working as part of the SAVE (Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction) consortium, had been working tirelessly to rid the area of painkiller diclofenac. This drug, if used on livestock, is fatal to the vultures that clear up the carcasses. But now the area is finally deemed safe enough to release individuals reared in captivity, giving the Critically Endangered wild population a much-needed boost.

Vulture population declines in South Asia have slowed and possibly reversed

“Within the provisional Vulture Safe Zone, we conduct undercover surveys of pharmacies and have found no diclofenac in the last four years,” said Krishna Bhusal of BCN. “We also conduct surveys of vulture populations and have found that the population declines have slowed and possibly reversed.”

And so it seems the perfect time – and the release process went off without a hitch, with five out of the six youngsters emerging from their enclosure. Their first unrestricted flight was slightly more difficult – partly due to the novelty of the activity, and partly due to the enormous meal they’d just consumed – but all of them managed to find a suitable perch for the night. Only one cautious vulture remained inside the aviary – but by the morning, she, too, had plucked up the courage to venture out into the wild. (RSPB’s Alison Beresford gives a great first-hand account of the release day here.)

So what happens now? Well, each of the vultures has been fitted with a solar-powered satellite tag that will track their movements.

“It is time to assess whether the provisional Vulture Safe Zone has become a true Vulture Safe Zone, but only the vultures can show us that,” said Toby Galligan, Senior Conservation Scientist, RSPB (BirdLife in UK) Centre for Conservation Science. “So, we are using satellite telemetry to track wild White-rumped Vultures remotely and in the field. If any die we can recover them, examine them for cause of death and prevent other vultures dying from that cause.”

The tags will also be very useful in discovering whether the captive-reared birds behave normally in the wild. Since this is the first experiment of its kind, such findings will prove vital in future programs.

Vulutres cross the border to India to forage

In the months prior to the release, SAVE had also tagged and tracked several wild vultures. All of them currently remain alive and well, which bodes very well for our six captive-reared novices.

But vultures in this area have been known to cross the border to India to forage. The ability of vultures to transcend national boundaries is what makes global partnerships like SAVE and the Multi-species Action Plan so vital to ensure their safety in the coming years.


For more on the African-Eurasian Vulture Crisis, see www.birdlife.org/savevultures

BirdLife Shop Donate Who we are What we do Where we work Support us Data Zone Like most websites we use cookies. If you’re happy with that, just carry on as normal (close this bar) – otherwise click here to find out more. 20 Nov 2017 The big moment: Nepal releases its first ever captive-reared vultures Watch as conservation history is made: six captive-reared Critically Endangered White-rumped Vultures venture out into the wild. This comes at a time when the world is finally waking up to the plight of vultures. A captive-reared White-rumped Vulture takes its first unrestricted flight © Jyotendra Thakuri A captive-reared White-rumped Vulture takes its first unrestricted flight © Jyotendra Thakuri By Jessica Law The moment has finally arrived. Bait is placed outside the entrance of the pre-release aviary, and the door is opened from a remote hide. As wild vultures descended to feed, five out of our six yellow-tagged protagonists are lured outside to join in in the scrum. Soon they are squabbling and interacting with them as if they’d always been part of the gang. And, in a way, they had – in the weeks before their release, they had been socialising with wild vultures through the wire while exercising their wings. Satellite-tagged newcomers gorge on their first wild meal alongside wild vultures © Rajendra Guring Satellite-tagged newcomers gorge on their first wild meal alongside wild vultures © Rajendra Guring It’s been a fantastic couple of months for vultures. In October, the ambitious Multi-species Action Plan to save 15 vulture species over 128 countries was endorsed with enthusiasm at the Convention on Migratory Species Conference of Parties in Manila. At almost exactly the same time in India, the Madras high Court ruled to uphold the dosage restriction on vulture-killing drug diclofenac. And last week, in Nepal, six captive-reared White-rumped Vultures were finally released into a wild that, for the first time in decades, could be truly vulture-safe. On the 9th of November, scientists and officials gathered to watch conservation history being made, with South Asia’s first ever release of captive-reared Critically Endangered birds. For years, Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN, BirdLife in Nepal) and RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), working as part of the SAVE (Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction) consortium, had been working tirelessly to rid the area of painkiller diclofenac. This drug, if used on livestock, is fatal to the vultures that clear up the carcasses. But now the area is finally deemed safe enough to release individuals reared in captivity, giving the Critically Endangered wild population a much-needed boost. Subscribe to Our Newsletter! Vulture population declines in South Asia have slowed and possibly reversed “Within the provisional Vulture Safe Zone, we conduct undercover surveys of pharmacies and have found no diclofenac in the last four years,” said Krishna Bhusal of BCN. “We also conduct surveys of vulture populations and have found that the population declines have slowed and possibly reversed.” And so it seems the perfect time – and the release process went off without a hitch, with five out of the six youngsters emerging from their enclosure. Their first unrestricted flight was slightly more difficult – partly due to the novelty of the activity, and partly due to the enormous meal they’d just consumed – but all of them managed to find a suitable perch for the night. Only one cautious vulture remained inside the aviary – but by the morning, she, too, had plucked up the courage to venture out into the wild. (RSPB’s Alison Beresford gives a great first-hand account of the release day here.) So what happens now? Well, each of the vultures has been fitted with a solar-powered satellite tag that will track their movements. “It is time to assess whether the provisional Vulture Safe Zone has become a true Vulture Safe Zone, but only the vultures can show us that,” said Toby Galligan, Senior Conservation Scientist, RSPB (BirdLife in UK) Centre for Conservation Science. “So, we are using satellite telemetry to track wild White-rumped Vultures remotely and in the field. If any die we can recover them, examine them for cause of death and prevent other vultures dying from that cause.” The tags will also be very useful in discovering whether the captive-reared birds behave normally in the wild. Since this is the first experiment of its kind, such findings will prove vital in future programs. Vulutres cross the border to India to forage In the months prior to the release, SAVE had also tagged and tracked several wild vultures. All of them currently remain alive and well, which bodes very well for our six captive-reared novices. But vultures in this area have been known to cross the border to India to forage. The ability of vultures to transcend national boundaries is what makes global partnerships like SAVE and the Multi-species Action Plan so vital to ensure their safety in the coming years. Read SAVE’s full press release here. For more on the African-Eurasian Vulture Crisis, see www.birdlife.org/savevultures Worldwide Nepal Migratory Birds and Flyways – Asia Love Vultures#lovevulturesreleasenepalcaptive-breeding Top Stories The big moment: Nepal releases its first ever captive-reared vultures Guyra Paraguay celebrates 20 years of science and conservation The Bird Bulletin: Europe & Central Asia Did Sierra Leone mudslide uncover a forgotten conservation promise? 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Northwest Geopark

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Donald Fisher spoke to us about Geology in general, British geological history, and Northwest Highland Scottish geology in particular.  The main import was to explain why the Northwest Geopark is important in geological terms.

Donald Fisher spent some time as the Highland Region Geologist before setting up a Geological Consultancy business.  He lives in Scourie, at the heart of the Northwest Geopark for which he is the Geological Ranger.

The lecture began by asking how well we personally recalled times only recently passed, like previous past hours, previous past years, or previous past generations that we just might have a notion of.  Then we were asked about our understanding the meaning of 10,000 years ago, 50,000 years ago, 1,000,000 ago, or more.

We were assured that while geologists speak in terms of many millions of years past and processes requiring millions of years to elapse no one, not even a geologist can accurately understand these time periods.  The point being that we must not let these large periods of time be a barrier to discussing and understanding what has happened to the surface of our planet over geological time.

Before entering into the geological explanation of how Britain became what it is today Donald outlined the three major rock types, Sedimentary, Igneous, and Metamorphic, their origins and general relative hardness.  The landscape we now see reflects these underlying rocks.

In very general terms England is underlain by sedimentary rock formations and displays a gently rolling surface.

Scotland, with more metamorphic and igneous rocks at its surface, displays generally steeper and higher landforms.  Where sedimentary rocks lie below the surface in Scotland, the Central Belt, the landforms are more undulating than mountainous.

Guided by this explanation observation of the Geological Map of Britain began to make more sense.

It can never be easy within about one hour to explain several billion years of geological history, but Donald Fisher used as a target date “When England Met Scotland” and explained movements of tectonic plates (mini-continents) from very far south of the equator to a point, still below the equator, when the landmass Scotland was attached to, Laurentia (Canada and north USA), collided with the landmass England was attached to, Avalonia (Europe, except northern Scandinavia).

Since that collision England and Scotland seem tightly bound – geologically.  And, they have moved much further northward.

The stress of the collision between “England” and “Scotland” caused disruption which formed one of the main features of interest today in the Northwest Geopark – namely the Moine Thrust.  A very large slice of old metamorphic rock, the Moine Schist, was pushed,  or thrust, by this collision northwestward over the younger rocks of the Torridonian Sandstone.

Understanding what this thrust was and how it came to be was instrumental to the birth of Structural Geology.  So now the Moine Thrust area is rightly famous worldwide.

Other geological features in the Geopark include the Lewisian Gneiss, nearly the oldest rock occurring on the surface of the planet.

Apart from providing an explanation for ‘thrusting’ other process are well displayed in the Geopark, such as glacial erosion which has removed masses of rock from between our favourite West Sutherland hills and left us with the photogenic Suilven, Quinag and other peaks.

Our individual observations of ‘three score and ten’ years are quite minute when compared with the immense time periods our unique Geopark landscape displays.

We thank Donald Fisher for the concise addition to our understanding of Highland landforms and geology.

North Highlands Forestry

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Graeme Findlay from the Golspie office of the Forestry Commission spoke briefly about how much the FC role had shifted from planting and extraction toward biodiversity and enhancing the citizen’s experience of their forest estate. Continue reading “North Highlands Forestry” »

Northwest Mink Project

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Tuesday evening, 9th November 2010, TDFC heard Lois Canham describe the problems caused by American Mink (Neovison vison) and the local north highland project to define and reduce their numbers and hopefully eradicate them. Continue reading “Northwest Mink Project” »