Livestock painkiller smuggled from Bangladesh decimating vulture population in India

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Guwahati, May 10 : The population of Asian vultures in India is dwindling fast at the Rani Vulture breeding and conservation site in Guwahati.

Diclofenac Sodium, an anti-inflammatory drug administered to cattle is believed to be the prime cause behind the constantly dwindling population of vultures.

The drug is banned in India since 2006. It is smuggled into Assam from Bangladesh.

"Our team found last month in the wild life that diclofenac is used in the area but it is not made by any Indian company, but are spurious drugs brought from Bangladesh that is smuggled drugs," said Moloy Baruah, Director, Early Birds.

Wildlife enthusiasts have launched a concerted effort to enforce ban on the anti-inflammatory drug to protect vultures, which are found only in Assam throughout India.

"Ten to fifteen years back, lakhs of vultures could be found. But in the past ten years, the population has decreased by 99 per cent. There are a lot of reasons behind this but the main reason is diclofenac sodium," said Debojit Das, a veterinarian.

Population of the slender billed vulture has come down to 1000 and is only concentrated in a few pockets of Assam.

According to a study, the researchers estimated the numbers of white-backed vultures at 11,000 from tens of millions in the 1980s. The long-billed vulture population is believed to be around 45,000, while the slender-billed vultures (Gyps tenuirostris) number is around 1,000.

Scientists say that this is because of diclofenac, which causes kidney failure in the birds.

According to BirdLife International, a global partnership of conservation organisations despite the ban on the drug's manufacture, it is widely available.

The drug, which is a painkiller, is still in use in the country because of its low cost and easy availability.

Efforts must be redoubled to remove diclofenac from the vultures' food supply and to protect and breed a viable population in captivity.

ANI

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