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BROCHURE RACK

Indian vulture crisis update – Diclofenac still widely used

21/02/2012 10:24:52

Help save Asia's vultures

The Bombay Natural History Society, with support from the RSPB and newly-formed consortium Saving Asia's Vultures from Extinction (SAVE) manages three conservation breeding centres in India where 271 vultures are housed and successful breeding of all three species has now occurred. To read more about the battle to save Asia's vultures, go to the RSPB & BNHS Save website.

Diclofenac vials still designed for cows, not humans - Courtesy of The Bombay Natural History Society 

February 2012. Nationwide road surveys in India, initially conducted in 1991-1993 and repeated in 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2007, revealed that, by 2007, Asian white-backed vulture (Gyps bengalensis) had fallen to 0.1% of its numbers in the early 1990s, with populations of Indian vulture (Gyps indicus) and Slender-billed vulture (Gyps tenuirostris) having fallen to 3.2% of their earlier level. The last nationwide survey in India was undertaken in 2007

A new nationwide census in India was undertaken from March to June 2011, which followed the same methods and transects as previous surveys beginning in 1992. The results indicate that populations of all three species of vulture remain at very low levels, but that the rate of decline has slowed and might even have reversed for Gyps bengalensis (details to be published in 2012).

A vulture in India killed by Diclofenac.

A vulture in India killed by Diclofenac.

However, the rarity of vultures means that estimates of the most recent population trends are necessarily imprecise, so slow declines may be continuing. The degree to which the decline rate of Gyps bengalensis has slowed is broadly in accord with the effects on population trend expected from a reduction in the prevalence and concentration of Diclofenac in carcasses of domesticated ungulates since the ban on veterinary Diclofenac was introduced in 2006.

These results are encouraging and suggest that conservation actions implemented in India are beginning to take effect on the remaining population of vultures. However, further action to remove all remaining Diclofenac in the veterinary sector must be enforced in order to allow numbers to increase.

Further analysis of these results, in combination with the latest carcass survey results, will be undertaken in order to establish if there are spatial and temporal differences in the patterns of decline.

Reducing the size of vials is vital
Another key survey found a widespread availability of human Diclofenac formulations which were available in large (30 ml) vials and which the evidence suggests are widely purchased to be subsequently used in treating livestock. A dose for human use is usually 3ml so the larger vials are purely designed for use in the vetinerary use - Which is theoretically banned in India.

These surveys also found that the human Diclofenac in large vials is most common form being sold and is easily available in pharmacies in Uttar Pradesh. Surveys by BCN have found that these human formulations are also being supplied to Nepalese markets for veterinary use which is also verified by the Uttar Pradesh survey.

43% shops still selling Diclofenac for vetinerary treatment
Monitoring of pharmacies in the area indicates that there is still a long way to go in order to remove the Diclofenac problem: with 43% of shops still willing to sell human Diclofenac for veterinary treatment (a total of 46 shops were surveyed).

The availability of Meloxicam (a drug that is thought to be much safer for vultures) was also low in this area with only 4% of shops offering this drug.

Other initiatives
A total of six vulture safe feeding sites operated by BCN are providing Diclofenac free food to vultures. In 2011, a total of 444 cows were collected, 332 fed to vultures and at present 126 cattle are available at the cow rescue centres.

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