This assignment evaluated a cluster of five closed Darwin projects in India and Nepal. Three of the projects reviewed were set up in response to the catastrophic vulture declines in India and Nepal from the 1990s onwards. These well planned, effective and dedicated projects, which were timely and responsive to an immediate need, could provide a model for other Darwin projects. Their impact has been felt far and wide. A key strength that made the projects relevant was the responsiveness in their approach (and that of the Darwin Initiative) when the initial hypothesis of a viral epidemic being the primary cause of vulture decline was superseded by the probable cause of the ingestion of a veterinary analgesic drug in livestock. Diclofenac was found to cause renal failure and consequently death in vultures when they ate the carcasses, according to research conducted by another organisation in Pakistan.
An opportunity was taken to carry out a closed project evaluation on DI Project 12-029: The Steppe Forward Programme: Training conservationists for Mongolia’s future. Meetings were held with a number of individuals. All the indications are of a well delivered and successful project, with the likelihood of high sustainability and legacy. The core activity of holding field ecology training courses for undergraduate biology students was successfully delivered in a cost effective way which promoted international exchange. The Biology Faculty of the National University of Mongolia now contains a successful conservation unit which is generating a number of project outputs including field guides, red lists and action plans, public awareness and other resource programmes.