LAHORE - International Vulture Awareness Day will be observed across the globe including Pakistan on Saturday (today) with the aim to highlight the ecological significance of vultures and their importance to environmental health. September 5 is being celebrated worldwide as the International Vulture Awareness Day with the participation of leading conservation organisation such as WWF, The Hawk Conservancy Trust, UK, Zoological Society of London, Birds of Prey Working Group in South Africa. Vultures are an ecologically vital group of birds that face a range of threats in many areas in which they occur. Vulture clean the environment by eating dead animals and also control the spread of disease causing organisms from the carcasses. Population of many species of vultures are under pressure and some are facing extinction. There are a total of nine species of vultures found in South Asia and Pakistan has eight of these. In Pakistan, a major decline has been seen in two of the Asian Gyps species called White-backed Vulture and the Long-billed Vulture. The population of these two vultures have declined to about 95 percent and these now are listed as Critically Endangered ,which means only conservation efforts can safe these species from extinction. This decline is linked to the extensive use of Diclofenac Sodium drug in livestock that accumulates in the kidneys of vultures when they feed on carcasses and eventually leads to their death. Diclofenac has been banned in veterinary practice now. WWF - Pakistan also took an initiative and launched the Gyps Vulture Restoration Project in 2005 in partnership with the Punjab Wildlife and Parks Department with the support from Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, UAE and The Hawk Conservancy Trust, UK. The key objective of the project is to conserve a viable population of Gyps bengalensis in a safe and secure environment. For vulture awareness, WWF - Pakistan put up banners in different parts of Lahore to highlight the ecological significance of vultures, organised a poem writing competition and distributed posters at Lahore Zoo. Vultures have received bad publicity and people need to understand that presence of vultures is critical to environmental health; a decline in vulture may further increase the population of crows and dogs. CS meets US Principal Officer Chief Secretary Punjab Javed Mahmood met Principal Officer US Consulate Carmela Conroy here on Friday. They discussed development of the Punjab and improvement in education sector. They emphasised upon the promotion of primary education. Besides, checking of incidents of sectarianism and terrorism, and topics, like health sector, American image came under discussion as well. The Principal Officer assured CS Punjab that all possible cooperation would be extended by the US Consulate.