Extinction of vultures


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The griffon vultures that used to number in the tens of millions in India could be extinct in the country within a decade, experts say. A virus was the initial suspect for the disappearance of South Asia's griffon vultures.

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Then, in 2004, US scientists working in Pakistan - which, unlike India, allowed vulture tissue to be taken out of the country for analysis - discovered that the birds were being poisoned by feeding on the carcasses of cattle that had been treated with the painkiller Diclofenac .

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The drug, commonly used to treat sick cattle, proved to be highly toxic to vulture’s kidneys. India banned the manufacture of veterinary Diclofenac in 2006. However it is still widely available.

Cheap imports :

Cheap imports Cheap veterinary diclofenac is imported from China, and the human formulation is also used to treat cattle. Because vultures flock from far and wide to feed on a dead animal, it takes less than 1% of cattle carcasses to be contaminated with the drug to kill the birds off.

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The most common species, The oriental white- rumped vulture , has been declining an average 44% per year since 2000, and the two less common species by 16%. That is faster than any other wild bird ever recorded, even the infamous dodo.

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Now scientists have discovered that another veterinary drug, K etoprofen , is also fatal to the birds. Vultures which feed on the carcasses of livestock recently treated with ketoprofen suffer acute kidney failure and die within days of exposure. The research was published in the journal Biology Letters.

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Ketoprofen , like diclofenac , is an anti-inflammatory drug administered to livestock to reduce pain and swelling caused by rheumatism or arthritis. The conservation organization BirdLife International, which sponsored the new research, is now calling for tighter controls on ketoprofen . The group is also calling for greater use of another drug, meloxicam , which is no longer under patent and is not fatal to vultures.

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"Only meloxicam has been established as a safe alternative for vultures, while at the same time being an effective drug for treating cattle.

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Vibhu Prakash , director of the Vulture Program of the Bombay Natural History Society, said in a prepared statement. "We would like to see other safe alternatives, but it should be the responsibility of the Indian pharmaceutical industry to test these to determine their safety to vultures



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