Global award for Indian conservationist who saved vultures

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New Delhi, Oct 14 (IANS) Britain’s largest nature conservation charity Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has bestowed the prestigious Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Nature Conservation on Ram Jakati for saving India’s vultures from certain extinction.
In the 1990’s India’s vulture population was pushed to the brink of extinction due to the use of the veterinary drug, diclofenac, given to cattle but lethal to vultures feeding on their carcasses.
Use of the drug was so widespread that India’s vulture population dropped to just one per cent of what it had been before the use of diclofenac.
Jakati, who was the Chief Wildlife Warden for the Forest Department in Haryana for many years, played a key role in not only getting the drug banned but also establishing a network of sanctuaries, breeding centres and urgent action needed to ensure that vultures did not go extinct before the ban could be implemented.
His work began before the cause of the decline had been identified and his early intervention can be considered a major factor in protecting India’s vultures.
He subsequently helped to found SAVE (Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction), an international partnership that to this day plays a coordination role in the conservation of South Asia’s vultures.
The Asian vulture conservation program is today, 20 years on, a world-leading example of effective conservation delivery.
And an exemplar of what can happen when state and national governments, NGOs, academics and other stakeholders work together with common purpose.
RSPB Chief Executive Beccy Speight said: “The combined climate and nature crisis and the impact of human activity is pushing many once common species to the brink of extinction.
“But around the world people and some governments are fighting back. So I am pleased that we are able to celebrate the vital work of Dr. Jakati. His energy and resolve has prevented the extinction of vultures in India.
“He was a driving force for change and galvanised people, organisations and his government to act before it was too late. His work and the tireless efforts of everyone involved with SAVE are an inspiration that we can make the changes we need before it is too late, that with urgent and united action we can revive our world.”
An elated Jakati said: “I am very delighted to receive this prestigious award and deeply humbled by your gesture. I would like to emphasise that we could make rapid progress in vulture conservation in India because we had an excellent team to start with during early 2000.
“I would, therefore, like to accept this award on behalf of that vulture team which laid a solid foundation for work on saving Indian vultures from possible extinction.
“I would especially like to mention the names of Vibhu Prakash and Nikita Prakash of the Bombay Natural History Society, Debbie Pain and Chris Bowden of the RSPB, Rhys Green of Cambridge University and Andrew Cunningham of the Zoological Society of London and Jemima Parry Jones of the International Birds of Prey Centre.”

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