Ahmedabad’s Parsis Fight To Bring Back The Vultures

With vultures under the threat of extinction, Ahmedabad’s Zoroastrian community has come up with a plan to restore vultures to the area, to help with the traditional funeral practice of dokhmenishini. Around 30 years ago, there were over 80 million vultures in India, which was more than enough to take care of the funerary needs of the country’s 60,000 Parsis. However, according to the Gujarat Ecological Educational Research Foundation, by the end of 2016, only an estimated 999 of the birds were left in the western state of Gujarat. Without vultures, bodies take far longer to be disposed off, creating a religious and public health issue. To resolve this, many Zoroastrians residing in Ahmedabad, have installed solar collectors, which help the sun dry out the body faster. These only work, however, in warm and clear weather.

Brigadier JP Anklesaria has come up with the strategy to take in half a dozen of the inevitably injured birds after next year’s Uttarayan festival and keep them in semi-captivity near the Towers of Silence. As Ahmedabad’s Zoroastrian community barely numbers 1,500, the dead won’t be enough to feed the birds. Hence, the rest of the time, the birds will have to be fed with meat, funded by the local community. In 2012, the New York Times reported that Parsi leaders in Mumbai, were planning on building two large aviaries around their Towers of Silence that would house 76 vultures each. Anklesaria hopes to turn the scrubby lot into a public park. “The purpose of having such a big area is so that the birds will come back,” Ankelasaria says.

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