"Asian Vultures Get Good News Ahead of International Vulture Day"

"India has taken one more step to save its three critically endangered vulture species from extinction. Last week the country finally banned large doses of diclofenac, a painkiller that is often given to cattle and buffalo but which kills any vultures that eat the carcasses of treated animals. About 49 million vultures have died over the past 20 years, victims of renal failure caused by the drug. The loss of these admittedly unattractive carrion eaters has had cascading effects on India’s ecosystem. Without the birds to eat dead animals diseases have increased, feral dog populations have grown and even one religion that depended on vultures to consume their fallen believers has suffered.

India banned veterinary use of diclofenac back in 2006 but that law wasn’t enough to stop 70 less-than-legal companies from producing and selling the drug to livestock owners and veterinarians. Large vials of the human formulation of the anti-inflammatory painkiller remained readily available and widely used by farmers around the country. The new law bans any vial larger than three milliliters, which is enough to treat a person but too small to treat an animal. (Diclofenac is available in the U.S.; it has not been shown to have the same effect on New World vultures.)"

John R. Platt reports for Scientific American September 3, 2015.|

Source: Scientific American, 09/08/2015