Vulture decline slows
The ban on a veterinary medicine which caused an unprecedented decline in Asian vulture populations has shown the first signs of progress. However, the recovery of the wild vulture populations requires efforts to see the painkiller completely removed from the birds’ food supply.
The governments of India, Nepal and Pakistan banned veterinary use of the painkiller diclofenac in 2006 because of its lethal effects on vultures that feed on the carcasses of cattle and buffaloes that had been treated with the medicine.
A new study shows that the proportion of cattle carcasses in the Indian sub-continent contaminated with the painkiller declined by over 40% between 2006 and 2008. The concentration of the medicine in contaminated animals also fell. Combining the effects of these two changes, the expected rate of annual population decline of the vultures is expected to slow by around two thirds.
The resulting rate of decline is still expected to be around 18% per year for the most susceptible species, the oriental white-backed vulture, down from about 40% per year before the ban, meaning that vultures will not recover unless efforts to eradicate the medicine become still more successful.
An additional problem is that diclofenac manufactured for human use is still being used illegally to treat cattle in India.
Read more on the RSPB website here.