Numbers of vultures in Nepal are rising, thanks to their very own chain of healthy diners. What sounds like a joke is an effort to recover population numbers, after many birds got poisoned by painkillers that had been fed to livestock. Drug-free diners have been set up across Nepal in the last years and indeed led to an increase in numbers. The latest was set up last year in the Annapurna region, and has led to a five-fold increase in the local population.
The widely used painkiller diclofenac for lifestock leads to kidney failure in vultures, a major cause for the decline in population numbers throughout South Asia. Three of the six indigenous vulture species in Nepal are now listed as critically endangered, as vulture numbers have decreased by more than 90 per cent in the last few years.
Vultures are important to maintain the ecological balance in Nepal. The decreasing population numbers have led to a rise in rotting carcasses, which again led to an increase in feral dogs and the spread of rabies, anthrax and tuberculosis.