6th Regional Steering Committee Meeting held in Kathmandu

6th Regional Steering Committee Meeting held in Kathmandu

Nepal handed over the Regional Steering Committee (RSC) Chair to Bangladesh today on June 28, 2017 at the 6th Regional Steering Committee meeting held in Kathmandu, Nepal. As part of the South Asia Vulture Recovery Programme, the meeting saw participants from RSC's four member countries —from Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan—engage in sharing and discussing country-specific as well as transnational developments being undertaken to save some of the critically endangered vultures of South Asia.

The meeting being chaired by the Secretary for Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation Mr.  Prakash Mathema, under the Co-chairmanship of the Deputy Regional Director of IUCN Asia Dr. Tej Pal Singh, comprised of member delegates and representatives from government-line ministries, conservation partners, institutions, researchers and specialists.  Representatives from Nepal included those from the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, Department of Forests, National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), Bird Conservation Nepal, IUCN, WWF Nepal, and the Zoological Society of London.

After reviewing the minutes of the 5th RSC meeting, country-wise presentations were made by the respective delegates from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. These covered crucial insights along with Q&A sessions mostly related to both ex-situ and in-situ vulture conservation initiatives being implemented in the context of each member country.

Some of the updates that stood markedly during the meeting were related to the progress around vulture breeding centres (VCBC), their feeding sites (VFS), the establishment of vulture free zones (VSZ); activities related to aviaries and hatching; vulture tagging, release and monitoring, research and findings; pharmacy surveys; carcass monitoring and sampling for diclofenac or other vulture-toxic compounds; monitoring of other NSAIDs used by farmers (besides diclofenac) with other replacement alternatives like meloxican; the implementation of country-specific Vulture Conservation Action Plans or the like; education and awareness initiatives; target advocacy components for garnering pro-policy measures; while also building on country-specific success cases, lessons and challenges. In addition to the RSC member countries, Dr. Chris Bowden from SAVE (Saving Asia's Vulture from Extinction) also shared on some positive interventions being realized in the overall species revival, besides highlighting existing gaps for further concerted effort and integration.

Nepal has prepared the Vulture Conservation Action Plan (2015-2019) to guide its vulture conservation initiatives. For the first time earlier this year in April, six captive Gyps vultures underwent soft release from the Kasara Breeding Centre in Chitwan to Pithauli in Nawalparasi district in Nepal. Today there are 64 vultures at the Kasara breeding centre in CNP. Given the extraordinary role of vultures in the planet's ecosystem service, Nepal along with its other RSC members are fully committed to heighten focus in some of the persistent challenges in the South Asia Vulture Recovery Programme.

With the conclusion of this event, the 7th RSC meeting is expected to be conducted by Bangladesh later this year in September.