Vultures may not be among the most beloved or popular creatures, but Indian officials are praising reports that the bird's population in the country have stabilized after decades of catastrophic declines.


According to a report in the Times of India, the number of vultures in India increased slightly from 2011 and 2012, versus two decades of sharp of dramatic reductions.


 


The paper, citing a survey from the Bombay Natural History Society (BHNS), noted that India had lost an astounding 99 percent of its vulture population since the early 1990s.


 


Vast numbers of the scavenging birds perished when farmers and agricultural officials administered the painkiller drug Diclofenac to cattle and other livestock. After eating cow carcasses, vultures died en masse of renal failure.


 


"It's lethal for vultures if they eat an animal within 72 hours of it being given Diclofenac," said Vibhu Prakash, lead researcher of the study and the deputy director of BNHS.


 


The drug was largely banned across South Asia in 2006.


 


While vultures have staved off extinction for now, environmentalists warn the noisy bird remains “extremely vulnerable”.


 


Prakash noted that in in 2011, there were only 1,000 slender-billed vultures, 11,000 white-backed vultures and 44,000 Long-billed vultures remaining in the entire country.At one time, India boasted tens of millions of vultures.


 


Conservationists are now calling for a complete ban on Diclofenac,


 


"The use of Diclofenac by veterinarians has come down but not stopped altogether,” Prakash told BBC.


 


The drug is still available for human use and people are using those for their cattle. So it's still too early to say that the halt in the numbers is a long-term one or not.”