The ban of the veterinary drug Diclofenac comes as a relief to conservationists. The drug, administered to domestic cattle and water buffalo, has been blamed for the Great Asian Vulture Crisis. Diclofenac enters the food chain when vultures feed on livestock carcasses, causing kidney failure.
Ornithologists the world over have been concerned about the sharp dip in the population of vultures of the Gyps genus, particularly in southern Asia. In the 1990s, within an alarmingly brief span of three years, the numbers of three species of Gyps vultures fell by 95%. Over the last 15 years, their numbers are believed to have reduced by 97%. Terrifying, considering that in the late 1980’s, these vultures were common on our birding checklists.
The Gyps vultures in the spotlight are:
Slender-billed Vulture (Gyps tenuirostris)
Indian Vulture (G. indicus)
White-rumped Vulture (G. bengalensis)
The crisis is so serious that Chris Bowden of the Royal Society for Protection of Birds remarked: “The decline of these Asian vultures has been quicker than any other wild birds, including the dodo.”
The ban on Diclofenac is a vital first step. We have more ground to cover before we can save the vultures from extinction. Time, as always, is running out.