Union Environment and Forests Minister Prakash Javadekar on Friday released in the wild two captive Himalayan griffon vultures after tagging them.
The griffons have been in captivity at the Bombay National History Society (BNHS) centre near here for over 10 years where the critically endangered oriental white-backed, long-billed and slender-billed Gyps vultures have been bred under the Saving Asia's Vultures from Extinction (SAVE) programme.
Before the release of the Himalayan griffons, closely related to the critically endangered Gyps species of vultures but not endangered, SAVE has focused on creating "safe zones" for them to survive in nature, an official involved in the breeding programme told IANS.
Lauding the vulture breeding and conservation programme being run by the BNHS in association with the Haryana government, Javadekar said: "With the success of the programme, I believe we would manage to increase the number of vultures in the wild in the next 10 years."
He was speaking after launching Asia's first 'Gyps vulture reintroduction programme' under which the captive-bred Gyps vultures would also be later introduced in the wild.
While releasing the vultures in pre-release aviaries close to the Jatayu Conservation Breeding Centre at Bir Shikar Gah, Javadekar gave one bird the name 'Jodh Singh'.
Both the birds were wing-tagged and were leg-ringed for identification.
The union minister also handed over 10 captive bred vultures, which have siblings at the centre to Field Director A. K.
Srivastava of the Van Vihar National Park in Madhya Pradesh as part of the genetic management of captive vulture numbers.
Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar described the breeding and conservation of vultures as a significant step in the direction of saving the species.
He said the state government is formulating a scheme to conserve forests in the state.
Besides various programmes in the Shivalik hills, the 500-metre area around Mangar Bani has been declared 'no construction zone' by the state. The government is also formulating a scheme to develop a herbal park in 500 acres of land in Morni area.
Studies attribute the massive decline of three Gyps species across South Asia to the extensive use of the diclofenac veterinary drug.
The vultures that consumed the carcasses of animals treated with diclofenac died with symptoms of kidney failure. The link was firmly established in 2004.
In 2006, the drug was banned by the Indian government following a demand by ornithologists.
The Britain-based charitable organisation Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is funding three vulture breeding centres in India -- Pinjore in Haryana, Rajabhatkhawa in West Bengal and Rani in Assam -- and one in Nepal.
The BNHS breeding centres, including the Pinjore centre, hold the majority of the world's captive stock of the three threatened vulture species.