Breeding hope for threatened birds

Three species of vulture facing extinction within a decade have all managed to rear chicks successfully in captivity.

The three vultures have disappeared from huge swathes of southern Asia due to the use of a drug in livestock which causes acute kidney failure in the birds if they eat the carcasses of recently treated animals.

The population of the three Asian vultures were thought to have run to tens of millions before the use of diclofenac began, but now there are less than 60,000 birds left.

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A conservation partnership in India has now managed to rear three long-billed vultures, as well as three slender-billed vultures and four oriental white-backed vultures.

The success of the captive breeding programme – supported by the RSPB, Birdlife International, Bombay Natural History Society, the UK International Centre for Birds of Prey and the Zoological Society of London – has raised hopes of saving the birds from extinction.

The project hopes to secure "vulture safe" areas where captive-bred young can be released without the danger of encountering the drug – which has been banned but is still in circulation.

Chris Bowden of the RSPB said: "The crisis facing vultures is one of the worst facing the natural world."