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Vulture stranded in Tamil Nadu shifted to Rajasthan for rehab

Okhi a Cinereous vulture which was stranded in Tamil Nadu during a cyclone has been moved to Rajasthan for rehabilitation (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@@supriyasahuias)

What can be described as the first ever attempt in the country, the Forest Department of Tamil Nadu is trying to rehabilitate an exotic Cinereous vulture. This bird had been found stranded in Kanyakumari during the 2017 Ockhi cyclone that severely impacted humans and animals alike.

Unable to fly, it was cared for by wildlife authorities for five years and named Okhi after the cyclone. Following its rehabilitation, the State Forest Department officials decided to shift the raptor to Rajasthan where other vultures of its species migrate for winters.

On Thursday October 3 this juvenile bird was flown with full care in an Air India flight to Jodhpur’s Machia Biological Park. It reached Chennai by road from Vandalur Zoo to board the flight to Jodhpur.

Sharing details with the media, the Srinivas Ramachandra Reddy, Tamil Nadu’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests said Okhi will be housed in a large enclosure for a couple of weeks in the Park to enable it to get acclimatised before being released in Keru, a cattle carcass dumping site outside Jodhpur town.

This site was chosen deliberately as 40 other Cinereous vultures are present there and also food is available readily. The officials are hoping that in the next two months Okhi will get accepted and fly back to its place of origin.

To keep a tab on the bird, the Wildlife Institute of India will put an advanced satellite-based radio tag specifically used on vultures before its release.

This species of vultures is listed as endangered species under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species. Originally from Europe’s northern reaches and the Siberian region, they fly over the Himalayas to go to Iran, Pakistan and northern parts of India and rarely visit Tamil Nadu.

The State’s Additional Chief Secretary in the Environment, Forests and Climate Change Department, Supriya Sahu described the operation as special. She shared that the bird had been kept in a cage for nearly four years and last year efforts were intensified to rehabilitate it. “There is no point in keeping a high-altitude long-distance flying bird in a cage. Hopefully, the vulture named Okhi finds a new family.”