Vultures are some of the most sought birds to see in Nepal.There are 9 species in Nepal,including 5 endangered species.However most of their population has already declined due mainly to food poisoning.The drug diclofenac had been used to treat livestock and it had been widely available in all Indian subcontinent since late 1990.This drug has severely affected the populations of vultures that get poisoned when eating a carcass of a cow that has been treated with this drug.As a result,the populations of White-backed Vulture, Slender-billed Vulture and Indian Vulture already declined by over 97% in 2000 and were listed as critically endangered.Red-headed Vulture and Egyptian Vulture also declined by 91% and 80 % and were listed as critically endangered and endangered in 2007.Later on, Himalayan vulture and Bearded Vulture populations suffered also a dramatic decline by 84% and 80% respectively.
In the last decade,vulture feeding stations or restaurants ( called jatayu ) were set up in Nepal.These restaurants are run by local communities, that work together with an NGO, and they assure to provide non-poisoned food to the vultures.This places are also excellent to observe the behaviour and ecology of these magnificent creatures,while photographers can enjoy taking pictures of them.
Pithauli is one of this restaurants that i visited and it’s located in a buffer area next to Chitwan National Park.To get there i had to get a local bus from Bharatpur to Kawasoti.Once there another bus led me to the little town of Pithauli.There is no accommodation in the town but i arranged it in a house next to the vulture restaurant.There is a small hut with some basic information of the area where i had to pay for the entrance fee.Once inside, after a short walk i found a wooden hide with a capacity for a maximum of 12 people.From there i could observe the carcass that they drop every period of time.They can provide a new carcass if you request but you have to pay about 100 euros.White-rumped Vultures are usually seen here.Other vulture species that come to feed in Pithauli are Slender-billed Vulture,Indian Vulture,Cinereous Vulture, Red-headed Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Himalayan Vulture and Griffon Vulture.
Around this area i could spot a couple of Egyptian Vultures nesting on a tree.
In a late afternoon even an Indian Rhino appeared and delivered me the best views that i had of this amazing mammal.
There are other jatayu restaurants, one near Lumbini and another one near Pokhara but i couldn’t visit them.
Another place where to observe vultures is around the little town of Tansen.Tansen is located on the main road between Butwal and Pokhara.This beautiful little town lays on the crest of the Mahabharat Range.The streets are narrow and steepy.Most of the houses are traditional Newari style and people are calm and friendly.
To get there i got a bus from Nepaljang to Butwal.From Butwal, another bus brought me to Bartung,where i get another one to Tansen.Once i dropped my stuff in my room,i could see from the balcony a considerable number of vultures soaring the sky.Led by my curiosity i went uphill.I turned left and i followed the street that pass through other little and nice towns.The views from there were superb.I could see the Annapurnas,Machapuchhre and Dhaulagiri clearly.
Following my raptor friends, I ended up at the top of the hill, where i had stunning views of two individuals of Griffon Vulture remaining motionless on the grass.I could approach enough to take some shots.It was around 12 o’clock and it was quite hot.The heat currents that were ascending fooled the autofocus, and the pictures i took were not very sharp but decent enough.See the picture on top of the post.
See you soon in Bardia NP my friends !!!!