When an old silk cotton tree in Madanpokhara village started attracting vultures, the locals decided to bid goodbye to the tree itself as they thought vultures portend bad omen.
As they were planning to get rid of the scavengers, ´Radio Madanpokhara´ caught their attention. The local FM radio was for saving the ´nature´s cleaners´.
The naive villagers got perplexed. Soon enough, they understood that vultures were not dirty creatures, but were meant to clean the filth in the environment.
Eventually the tree got saved, so were the vultures. That was five years ago.
Over the years the vultures have not just helped keep the village environment clean, but have also brought good fortunes to the villagers.
As the village developed into a sort of vulture sanctuary, tourists from far and wide have started to visit the village to watch scores of endangered birds flying over their head.
Every one in the village is actively involved in conservation of vultures. And the positive attitude of the locals to the vultures has resulted in remarkable rise in their population.
It was hard to spot two vultures in the sky or the land at a given point of time only a few years back. Now scores of them could be seen struggling to adjust in the same tree, which the locals have renamed as Giddhe Simal or the cotton silk tree of vultures.
Vultures perch on the old Simal (silk cotton) tree in Madanpokhara village of Palpa. (Tek Narayan Bhattarai/Republica)
Locals have become so used to these rare birds that they hardly bother to stop and watch the flight of a large flock of vultures.
However, for tourists, it is an exhilarating experience.
Children of the villager are also quite fond of the vultures. With their eyes fixed on the tree, or sometimes on the sky, they go on counting their numbers in their hands – fifty, fifty-one, fifty-two…´ The counting often ends above 100.
All the vultures quietly perch on the branches of the huge old tree, compelling passers-by to stop and watch them. As if they are meditating, the vultures appear to enjoy the calmness of the sunrise. As the morning gives way to afternoon, they become more active and noisy.
“In the morning they keep silence. Then they begin to fight for food. And by the evening, they make too much noise,” said a local Prem Prem Nath Bashyal. “At night they seem to fight for space – it feels the space in the tree is no more sufficient for them.”
It is not only the tree, but also a restaurant here has been named after the vulture. ´Gidhdhe Restaurant´ is nowadays making good profit – thanks to the rising number of visitors to the village.
Rudra Basyal, a school teacher, said that these vultures have become “a symbol of prosperity”.
One hundred and twenty eight households among the consumers of the local Andheri Chharchhare Community Forest and the District Forest Office (DFO) are quite alert about vulture conservation.
“The awareness among the people has helped in vulture conservation. They now understand that vultures are very essential to keep the environment clean,” said Prakash Lamsal, a DFO officer. “Earlier they were concerned only about saving trees, now people know the value of promoting bio – diversity as well.”