Last year, ARKive ran a blog about the devastating effects of the cattle drug diclofenac on vulture populations in India. The Indian vulture, slender-billed vulture and Asian white-backed vulture have all suffered dramatic population crashes of between 97 and 99.9% as a result of ingesting the drug and are all now classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.
Neloy Bandyopadhyay, one of ARKive’s media donors, decided something had to be done to raise awareness of the plight of these important birds and the effects the drug is having on their populations, and so he made a film called ‘The Last Hope’. Here he tells us a bit more about himself and his increasingly important work.
Q: We thought your film was very inspiring and informative. Can you tell us more about what you do and why you decided to make a film about this conservation issue?
By trade I am an Information Security Consultant, but I am also a naturalist, wildlife photographer and filmmaker. I try to use my films and photographs as instruments to raise interest and awareness, and encourage the conservation of nature and wildlife, which are at the mercy of civilisation. I was the director, editor and cameraman for my film ‘The Last Hope’, a documentary on the Asian vulture crisis, which has gained nationwide interest since its release.
The idea of a short film on Asian vultures came to me while I was taking some still images of the Indian vulture. I wanted to broadcast a message about the importance of vultures in ecosystems, and decided a short film would be a more effective way to communicate the message to an audience than some still photographs. It was a self-funded film and I tried to portray the importance of these scavenging birds and highlight the effort required to save them with very limited funds and infrastructure.
Q: Can you tell us more about the film?
‘The Last Hope’ is a short film about the relentless struggle of vulture conservationists in India and the subcontinent. Conservationists are fighting a tough battle to save this great scavenger bird from the brink of extinction. The film was made to raise awareness of the importance of vultures in nature and the effects that the cattle drug diclofenac has on vulture populations.
Over the last few decades, Asian vultures have faced a catastrophic decline in numbers. Five species of Gyps vulture have experienced more than a 90% decline in numbers, which is one of the fastest recorded declines in the animal kingdom. When this was noticed by scientists, it was almost too late and the birds were on the edge of extinction.
It was the Bombay Natural History Society who first observed the decline of the Gyps vultures. More research revealed that the veterinary drug diclofenac, which was used on injured or diseased cattle for pain relief before death, was the reason for the vulture population’s decline. The vultures would feed on the cattle carcasses and ingest the drug, which poisoned them.
The situation was alarming; however, scientists around the world didn’t waste any time in attempting to save the species. The government of India and, later, the governments of Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh also provided support by banning the killer drug in 2006.
My film showcases the battle being fought by scientists, conservationists and governments to save these fantastic birds. It is a message to the public to inform them of the important role that vultures play within ecosystems, and that diclofenac needs to be completely phased out, as it is still illegally sold in some pharmacies.
Q: Why do you think ARKive is important?
I think that awareness is the key to conservation. ARKive is one of the best organisations working towards educating people about conservation issues. With a large audience from all over the world, ARKive is a fantastic platform for showcasing endangered species and promoting conservation, and it has been doing it successfully for years.
The issue of the Asian vulture crisis is still unknown to many in the world. However, I hope that more people will come to know about the killer side of diclofenac through reading this blog on ARKive and watching my film.
Find out more about Neloy’s work on his website.