Les hommes ont oublié cette vérité. Mais tu ne dois pas l'oublier, dit le renard. Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé.
Le Petit Prince, chap. 21

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Vulture decline and stray dogs' rise in India

The vulture population in India has gone from 40 million to 60,000 largely due to poisoning, often by the drug diclofenac. Carrion-consuming birds are now on the critically endangered list of BirdLife International, a global network of conservation groups. The result is an abundance of carcasses left untouched by vultures bringing in a whole host of new scavengers in ever increasing numbers, such as rats, stray dogs etc.. The new scavengers are less effective in clearing up the carcasses or removing disease from them in comparison to vultures. There is an increased risk of diseases such as tuberculosis, anthrax and foot-and-mouth disease as flesh is left on the bone when dogs scavenge from cows. Packs of dogs are now reported to be 'hunting' humans as well as wildlife and bring with them the threat of rabies. The increase in the number of feral dogs has seen India's human infection rate with rabies reach a world record level, over 20,000 deaths per year. Such is the problem; a plan to sterilize 8 million dogs over a decade has been introduced.
The Parsis of India who practice Zoroastrianism rely on vultures to dispose of their dead as their faith prevents them from burying, burning or submerging them due to fears over hygiene. Corpses are seen in the faith as impure so it contradicts their faith to allow anything that would defile the elements to enter into them. Bodies are laid out in the open for the vultures to consume and this can usually be done (to the bone) in around an hour by a large group of vultures. The practice has existed for centuries. Plummeting vulture populations mean half consumed bodies now lie for days leading to further risk of infection in the neighbouring communities, and ultimately encouraging a taste for human flesh amongst the ever increasing feral dog population. Attacks on humans in Bikaner in western Rajasthan state have rocketed with 1,000 dogs roaming the area. The farming community who have long been unaccustomed to dealing with carcasses have not been quick to adapt and this has exacerbated the problem. Lacking money and resources not to mention experience, they have been unable to dispose of bodies quickly and efficiently. Water contamination is also a worry for authorities as rotting meat degrades and enters the water table. In a country where water is a scarce and valued resource this has potentially dire consequences. 

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