Indian vultures news update

This video says about itself:

Vulture Sanctuary, Jorbeer, India

8 March 2014

Jorbeer is a major source of food availability for vultures, about 20-35 carcasses are dumped per day by the municipal board and local townspeople. They are placed here on the outskirts of town to help the dwindling vulture populations.

In the early 1990s, vultures of India and South Asia were among the most abundant large raptors in the world. However, within a decade, the populations of three species, White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis), Indian Vulture (G. indicus), and Slender-billed Vulture (G. tenuirostris), had declined so sharply that all three are considered Critically Endangered.

Extensive research identified the cause of the decline to be ‘diclofenac‘, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug used to treat livestock. Any vultures feeding on the carcasses of animals recently treated with the drug suffered renal failure and died.

The loss of vultures resulted in a sharp increase in the number of feral dogs around carcass dumps—the bites of these dogs are the most common cause of human rabies in the region. A 2008 study estimated that, concurrent with the vulture die-off, there was more than a 5.5 million increase in the feral dog population. This resulted in 38.5 million additional dog bites and more than 47,300 additional rabies deaths.

The drug, diclofenac, was banned in 2006, and recent surveys suggest vulture numbers have stabilized in India resulting from this ban. Although the vulture population has stabilized, the numbers remain very low across the region and any recovery will be slow.

From Wildlife Extra:

Vulture deaths down by a third since deadly drug ban

Since the 2006 ban the number of vultures dying from the drug diclofenac in India has reduced by more than a third a study carried out between 2005 and 2009 has found.

The vulture-toxic veterinary drug was banned from use in India in 2006, and since then the number of livestock carcasses found containing the drug has halved. However, experts say that six percent of carcasses are still contaminated with diclofenac, despite its use to treat livestock now being illegal.

Vulture deaths have not completely stopped because the drug is still licensed for human use and Indian pharmaceutical companies are manufacturing it in vials large enough to treat livestock. Therefore some veterinary surgeons and livestock owners continue to choose diclofenac over the vulture-safe alternative, meloxicam.

“The findings of our study are both good news and bad news,” said Dr Toby Galligan, RSPB conservation scientist and co-author of this study. “The good news is that veterinary use of diclofenac in India has decreased significantly; the bad news is that it has not stopped completely.

“Six percent of livestock carcasses remain contaminated with diclofenac, which equates to 1 in 200 vultures dying from diclofenac poisoning every time they feed. This might not sound like much, but we know that the death of three in 200 vultures per meal was enough to have caused the catastrophic declines.”

Ten years ago three species of South Asian vulture faced near-extinction because of widespread use of diclofenac to treat livestock, the carcasses of which were their main food source. In particular the Oriental White-backed vulture declined by more than 99.9 per cent in just 15 years.

“We’ve come so far and this is turning into one of the biggest conservation success stories ever – an additional South Asia-wide ban on diclofenac in vials larger than 3ml will contribute greatly to the recovery of vultures,” said Galligan.

Despite killing nearly all vultures in Asia, veterinary diclofenac was made legal in Europe in 2013. After intense campaigning by Birdlife, EU institutions are finally considering a ban. The European Medicines Agency is expected to rule on the lethal drug by November 30: here.

7 thoughts on “Indian vultures news update

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