This is one restaurant you may visit but not order anything for yourself. And if you want to see the patrons having a meal, do so discreetly lest you disturb them.
Welcome to the Jatayu Restaurant meant exclusively for vultures located at the Nawalparasi district adjacent to the buffer zone of the Chitwan National Park in Nepal. Run by the NGO ‘Bird Conservation Nepal’ (BCN). Curious what this is all about? Read on.
Why is such a restaurant needed?
When was the last time you saw a flock of vultures? Young people may never have. Five species of vultures in the Indian subcontinent are in the grave danger of extinction; four are in Nepal. Their numbers have declined by over 90 percent in just a decade. All because of a veterinary drug called Diclofenac, popular in rural areas for treating livestock. When these animals die, residues of these drugs enter the vultures when they feed on the carcasses causing their death. Although the drug is now banned, replaced by the safe alternative Meloxicam, the damage has been done.
These restaurants have been set up to provide safe food to these birds; and also try and ensure a steady supply in the face of dwindling stocks naturally.
So how does it work?
As cow slaughter is banned in Nepal, BCN goes around buying old and sick animals of no use to their respective owners. They are then kept in captivity, and fed too, till they die naturally. These are then sent to the restaurant for vultures to feed on.
What are the additional benefits?
Birds can also feed free from human disturbances. Being close to breeding colonies, the additional food helps improve breeding success as young ones can be well fed. They provide an economic and practical way of disposing of old and unproductive cattle. Scientists are able to study the biology and ecology of these threatened species. Very importantly, these help raise public awareness on vulture conservation and to raise funds.
Are there other such restaurants too?
At last count, two more besides the one at Chitwan: Lumbini and Lalmatiya (in Kalika Community Forest), both in Nepal.
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