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Jatayu needs a Prayer

By: Toothless Posted Oct 23, 2012 General 1015 Views
(Updated Oct 23, 2012 10:08 PM)

When I was a lad studying in primary school, I very clearly remember the lunch breaks, during winter when the sun was warm and nice we kids were made to eat our lunch in the open. For a 6 year old, every shade of green and blue was an object of curiosity and to me, it was the sky. While having lunch my mates and I would look up at the azure blue sky with little white clouds, high above and almost touching the clouds we could see a group of vultures circling. They looked magnificent with their huge wings with white stripes and feathers at the end of their wings that looked like fingers. Our favorite pass time was to count the number of Vultures up there and see if any of them ever flapped their wings. We used to pray for one of them to come down so that we could have a better look at this mysterious bird, few times our wishes were granted and watching this bird glide through the air and land like a mini aircraft was an adrenaline rush.

We grew up learning mythologies and none more magical than the Ramayana; to me one of the most touching parts of the Ramayana was associated with Jatayu. On the fateful day when Ravana kidnapped Sita maiya, Jatayu witnessed the event and rushed to the rescue. He fought valiantly with Ravana however his old wings could only take as much. He was critically wounded by the powerful Ravana and fell to the ground. He still managed to live on till Shri Rama found him so that he could tell the tale and point in the direction where Ravana had disappeared with Sita, shri Rama was so grateful that he used all his might to provide moksha to Jatayu.

The great vulture was as much a citizen of India as any man and as much a soldier of the soil as any “maha-rathi” who ever walked. However, the descendents of Jatayu are facing a much greater crisis; their story is as touching and worrisome as that of Jatayu. What used to be one of the most abundant birds of south Asia, so much so that it was even considered a nuisance by humans decided to depart the world following the footsteps of Jatayu. The vulture population in India declined at such an alarming rate during the early to mid 90s, that the specie is regarded as critically endangered; right now the decline has been 99.9% of the original population.

There are a few theories for this: The first postulates that the dead animals which the vultures feed on carry a chemical in their skin (which was introduced through some veterinary medicine or by pesticide swallowed by cattle while grazing) which causes kidney failure in birds. The second theory is based on a kind of avian disease which is wiping out the entire vulture population. Whatever be the reason, the bottom line is we are losing our hero; the vulture which is a critical part of the food chain might disappear forever.

Conservation efforts in India and neighboring countries are underway and slow paced but in this case I do not blame the authorities as it is very difficult to chase something that prefers to remain 1000 feet above land more often than not, also there is no conclusive proof of the root cause of their population decline, scientists are trying alternate chemicals that would not affect the vultures.

To see the vultures return to the sky is a big ask, it is even bigger than saving the Tiger, **there has to be a miracle of some sort and what better time to ask for a miracle than during Dussehra**.

Happy Dussehra to all.

May the Lord bless us all and this bird and all life on earth.

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