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Thursday, August 22

Despite a ban, diclofenac still kills Indian vultures

Diclofenac may be banned on papers to keep the falling population of vultures in India, but it is still killing the scavenger birds, reveals the death of two vultures at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmadabad (IIMA) last week. Wildlife enthusiasts claim that the vultures died of poisoning from the veterinary drug diclofenac.

White rumped Vulture, Gyps bengalensis, diclofenac poisoning, vulture death, Indian vulture deaths
White rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis)
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
According to sources, two dead White rumped Vultures from the IIMA campus were handed over to Jivdaya Charitable Trust, a veterinary trust working to save injured birds and animals, in Ahmadabad on August 16 and 21. The sources with the trust said that both the birds died of visceral gout – a condition caused by diclofenac poisoning.

 According to studies, the veterinary drugs containing diclofenac, used for treatment of cattle, stays with the carcass causing visceral gout in vultures, when they feed on the dead animals. Diclofenac poisoning has drastically brought down the vulture population in India, pushing them to the brink of extinction. White rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis) is included in the critically endangered category by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for their drastic fall in the population.

The incident has brought down the vulture population in Ahmadabad. Latest vulture population data in an around Ahmadabad shows that the city may have anything between 20 to 50 vultures. Majority of them, around 20, were at the IIMA campus. With the present incident, the vulture population at IIMA campus has come down to 18. However, it is estimated that the city outskirts may be sheltering about 200 vultures.

Diclofenac substitute campaigns
According to conservation enthusiasts, the use of diclofenac is still rampant in Ahmadabad and other parts of Gujarat. Despite a campaign to replace diclofenac with an alternative drug Meloxicam, which does not cause poisoning to vultures, the killer drug is still around, says an activist.

A recent study on threat to vulture population in India found that a variant of diclofenac named Aceclofenac is used as a veterinary medicine in India which may still be contributing to the decline of vulture population in India.