A large variety of birds of prey, including some eagles, has been found to be vulnerable to harmful effects of veterinary drug Diclofenac, a new study has shown.
This anti-inflammatory medicine is still widely used in South Asia region to treat livestock despite a ban in Nepal, India and Pakistan since 2006 following evidences that it is the main reason behind the decline in vulture population (carcasses of cattle and buffaloes are the main food source for vultures in South Asia).
Due to wide use of Diclofenac, the populations of three Asian vulture species — oriental white-backed vulture, long-billed vulture, and slender-billed vulture – witnessed a decline by more than 99 percent in South Asia since the late 1990s, prompting the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to classify their status as critically endangered.
In a paper published on Tuesday in the journal Bird Conservation International (BCI), scientists presented results of tests carried out on two steppe eagles found dead at a cattle carcass dump in Rajasthan, India, linking the presence of the banned drug residue in their tissues and exhibiting the same clinical signs of kidney failure as seen in Gyps vultures experimentally given diclofenac.
Quoting Toby Galligan, conservation scientists and one of the authors of the paper, a press statement issued by Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN), BCI’s partner organisation said, “We have known for some time that diclofenac is toxic to Gyps vultures, including the Eurasian griffon vulture, but we now know it is toxic to an Aquila eagle too. This suggests that the drug is fatal to a greater number of birds of prey in Asia, Europe and around the world.”
According to Khadananda Paudel, Vulture Conservation Officer at BCN, the organisation has been supporting Vulture Conservation Action Plan for Nepal by swapping remaining stocks of diclofenac medicine in the area with meloxicam, organising intensive awareness raising campaigns and advocacy programs.
“Despite the ban and ongoing efforts to use alternative drug, there is an urgent need to stop the illegal manufacturing, production and use of diclofenac and maintain the strength of this ban,” Paudel added.
Date: 28 May, 2014