Continued Availability of Banned Diclofenac Threatens Critically Endangered Vultures

An Indian Vulture in Kutch
Ramki Sreenivasan
Vultures are very important scavengers and their ability to digest carcasses infected with various bacteria that would be lethal to other scavengers

A study in the journal, Oryx, has found that Diclofenac is still widely available in general and veterinary pharmacies. In 2004 Diclofenac was established as the primary reason for the decline of the population of vultures in the Indian subcontinent and in 2006, the sale of Diclofenac was banned in India, Pakistan and Nepal. Diclofenac is used to relieve the suffering of dying cattle, which for religious reasons are not put to death right away. Vultures ingest the drug when feeding on the carcasses of the dead animals.

Three species of vultures native to India — the Indian Vulture (Gyps indicus), Slender-billed Vulture (Gyps tenuirostrirs) and the White-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis) have faced severe population decline with the white-rumped vulture losing almost 99.9% of its population. The study has found that almost 1/3rd of 250 pharmacies surveyed still carried the drug in some form. Some pharmacies were also circumventing the ban with injectable drugs manufactured for human use. There is some hope though, as the vulture-safe alternative meloxicam is available in 70% of the pharmacies.

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