When a man dies, people come together, praise the good deeds of the person and take his body for the final rites. However, in Lalmatiya village of western Nepal, the local communities organize an honouring procession when old cattle die. They cover the carcass with a white piece of cloth, offer flowers and incense to the dead, chant mantras and dispose the body to a platform meant to be an eating table for vultures.
As soon as the men leave the platform, the carcass is covered by a venue of vultures and they eat up the whole body within hours. Few years ago, the whole village used to be drenched in a strong stench of the dead animal for weeks, because there were no vultures around.
“The vultures had vanished from this area,” says Shyamesh Chaudhary, the President of the Kalika Community Forest Users’ Group. “After we banned Diclofenac and started feeding the vultures, they started coming back.”
The community forest users’ group opened an oldage home for old livestock two years ago. The local communities also banned Diclofenac in Lalmatiya and nearby Sisahaniya village.
When the cattle die, they are fed to vultures. Before accepting the old cattle, they confirm that they were not treated with the anti-inflammatory drug, Diclofenac. The drug has been the main cause of drastic decline of vulture population in Nepal. The vultures die of kidney failure after eating the carcass of cattle administered with Diclofenac.
“The oldage home for livestock is a unique way of conserving vultures and respecting the old cattle,” says Moti Adhikary, the coordinator of the oldage home. “Earlier the old cattle used to stray in the nearby community forest and village after being deserted by the owners. Now they have a safe place to stay before they die.”
The oldage home pays a nominal amount to the owners for providing the old cattle. The cattle are well taken care of and fed properly. “Right now we have 25 old cattle with us,” says Dil Bahadur Kumal, the caretaker of the oldage home. “In total we have had 152 cattle and we fed them to vultures after they died.”
After the oldage home’s establishment, five different species of vultures have flown to this area with many building nests in the nearby community forests. “We have located 22 nests in our community forest,” says Chaudhary. “More vultures have built nests in the neighbouring community forests and people come here to watch vultures.”
With a simple innovation, the villagers have not only taken care of old cattle and revived the vulture population but also attracted many visitors to this area.