About a decade ago, experts started noticing a crash in Gyps vulture populations. Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) and RSPB were at the forefront of determining that this was because of diclofenac, a pain-killer given to cattle. Vigorous campaigns have led to the complete ban of diclofenac as a veterinary drug. However, despite successes, diclofenac is still a deadly, persistent threat with illegal use of human formulations on cattle being rampant.
BNHS, along with the RSPB and the Indian Veterinary Research Institute are constantly monitoring new drugs to see their impact. Aceclofenac, a new painkiller, has just been proved to be fatal to vultures. There are currently three successful vulture breeding centres, and the next step is releasing Gyps vultures into the wild, through the establishment of Vulture Safe Zones. These Safe Zones have to be made 100 per cent free from drugs harmful to vultures. Unfortunately, now it’s not just diclofenac we have to watch out for.
BNHS are running a side event on vultures at the Convention on Biological Diversity meeting being held in India in October. To follow this work, visit the CBD blog here.
White-backed vultures feeding on wild chital in Bandipur National Park (Nityata Foundation)