Diclofenac ban ups vulture count for first time in 20 years

The country’s vulture population has increased for the first time in two decades, after a catastrophic decline in their numbers by over 99%.

A research paper by scientists from Bombay Natural History Society (BHNS) shows that the number of vultures, once found across the country, increased marginally between 2011 and 2012.

The vulture population in India started to fall dramatically in the early 90’s. Around 95% of the scavenging birds were wiped out by 2003 and over 99% by 2008, and their numbers plunged from four crore in the early 80’s to under a lakh in 2011.

The study also warned that while the stabilization in numbers is encouraging, only a small number of vultures remain and they are still extremely vulnerable.

Diclofenac, a painkilling drug administered to cattle, was the culprit. Vultures which have a digestive system robust enough to even digest disease causing pathogens found in rotting meat of the dead – do not have a critical enzyme that breaks down diclofenac. They die of renal failure after eating carcasses of cattle administered the drug.

“It’s lethal for vultures if they eat an animal within 72 hours of it being given diclofenac,” said Vibhu Prakesh, lead researcher and deputy director, BNHS. A ban on diclofenac use across South Asia in 2006 led to a drop off, between 2007 and 2011, in the numbers of birds being killed by the used of the drug on livestock.

Environmentalists said the findings offered signs of hope for the critically endangered species once believed to be close extinction.

The three most common vulture species found in India are the long-billed vulture (Gyps indicus), also known as Indian vulture, the white-backed vulture (Gyps africanus) and the slender billed vulture (Gyps tenuirostris).

Prakesh said getting affix on the actual numbers was not immediately possible but the numbers are slightly higher than in 2011, when there were only 1,000 slender billed vultures (Gyps tenuirostris), 11,000 white backed vultures and 44,000 long billed vultures remaining in the country. The decline prompted the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to put vultures on its list of ‘critically endangered’ species.

 

Courtesy:- Times Of India

 

 

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