Use of banned drug is grave threat to vultures: ornithologists

Coimbatore, Feb 13 (PTI) The population of Indianvultures, an endangered species whose population has suffereda 99 per cent drop mostly due to livestock drug Diclofenacthat has been banned since 2006, is gravely threatened by thecontinuous use of the drug, ornithologists said today.

Indian vultures, especially White-backed, Long-billedand Slender-billed, are exposed to Diclofenac, a Non-SteroidalAnti-inflammatory Drug (NSAID), when they consume carcasses ofcattle that were administered this drug.

Though Diclofenac was banned for veterinary purpose inMay 2006, government in August 2008 permitted the productionof ''human diclofenac''.

C Sasikumar, Ornithologist of Malabar Natural HistorySociety, said lack of awareness about the ban means itcontinues to be recommended by veterinarians and used bycattle owners.

Diclofenac is used widely as a painkiller in livestockpractices in the country.

Sasikumar, who is part of a team conducting a surveyto check the prevalence of NSAIDs among livestock in TamilNadu, Karnataka and Kerala, said the drug was still freelyavailable packaged in 30 mls vials.

"This is a very dangerous situation as far as vulturesare concerned and if not controlled immediately, the remainingpopulation also will be extinct in the near future", he said.

Supporting Sasikumar''s view, G Christopher, who is theResearch Coodinator of School of Environmental Sciences atMahatma Gandhi University in Kerala, said vulture populationhad decreased from at least 100 vultures per square km inNorth India and 50 to 60 per square km in South India.

Less than a per cent of the livestock carcassesavailable to vultures need to contain diclofenac to provelethal to vultures, he said.

But a 2006 a Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS)survey revealed that 11.1 per cent of the livestock carcassesin India were contaminated with diclofenac, which led to theban on the drug being imposed by the government, he said.


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