This medium-sized vulture has suffered a catastrophic decline in numbers (99 per cent) over the past 20 years, having formerly been described as the most abundant large bird of prey in the world.
These vultures feed on carrion and are very sensitive to the veterinary anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac which is used to treat domestic livestock. Birds that feed on carcasses containing residues of this drug die from renal failure.
An annual population decline of 44 per cent was observed in India between 2000 and 2007. To stop the decline, veterinary diclofenac has now been banned in many countries within the species’ range. In addition, food supplies are being supplemented in ‘vulture restaurants’ as a component of ecotourism activities in countries such as Cambodia.
Distribution: Afghanistan, Bhutan, Cambodia, India, Iran, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam and Russian Federation
Conservation status: Critically Endangered
Evolutionary distinctiveness: Low