AboutZoos, Since 2008


Vet­eri­nary drug diclofenac kills vul­tures ánd eagles, accord­ing recent study

pub­lished 30 May 2014 | mod­i­fied 30 May 2014

This drug is now ‘a global prob­lem’ threat­en­ing many vul­ner­a­ble birds of prey. The Span­ish Impe­r­ial Eagle, a threat­ened and endemic Iber­ian species, is now at risk too!

Spanish imperial eagleIt is well known that vet­eri­nary diclofenac caused an unprece­dented decline in South Asia’s Gyps vul­ture pop­u­la­tions, with some species declin­ing by more than 97% between 1992 and 2007. Vet­eri­nary diclofenac causes renal fail­ure in vul­tures, and killed tens of mil­lions of such birds in the Indian sub-​continent. The drug was finally banned there for vet­eri­nary pur­poses in 2006.

It was then sur­pris­ing and frus­trat­ing to find, late last year, that diclofenac had been licensed for vet­eri­nary use in Italy and Spain, thus cre­at­ing a real and immense risk for Euro­pean vul­ture pop­u­la­tions. For the last few months the Vul­ture Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion has led, together with BirdLife Inter­na­tional, the Royal Soci­ety for the Pro­tec­tion of Birds (UK), SEO/​BirdLife (Spain) and LIPU (Italy), a cam­paign aim­ing to ban this vet­eri­nary drug from Europe. EU deci­sion mak­ers can and should indeed reval­u­ate the risk this drug poses to vul­tures, and can­cel the legal mar­ket­ing permits.

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, and the Ital­ian and the Span­ish gov­ern­ments need to recog­nise this prob­lem and impose a continent-​wide ban on vet­eri­nary diclofenac before it is too late. This new paper raises the stakes — now it is vul­tures AND Eagles
Dr. José Tavares, the direc­tor of the Vul­ture Con­ser­va­tion Foundation »

Now, a new sci­en­tific study, pub­lished on 27 May in the jour­nal Bird Con­ser­va­tion Inter­na­tional, con­firms that eagles are also sus­cep­ti­ble to vet­eri­nary diclofenac, effec­tively increas­ing the poten­tial threat level, and the risks for Euro­pean bio­di­ver­sity. Tests car­ried out on two steppe eagles (Aquila nipalen­sis) found dead at a cat­tle car­cass dump in Rajasthan, India, show­ing the same clin­i­cal signs of kid­ney fail­ure as seen in vul­tures, indi­cated they had diclofenac residue in their tis­sues. The authors sug­gest that all the 14 eagle species in the genus Aquila are also prob­a­bly sus­cep­ti­ble to diclofenac.

Steppe eagles are closely related with golden eagles (Aquila chrysae­tus), impe­r­ial eagles (Aquila heli­aca) and Span­ish impe­r­ial eagles (Aquila adal­berti), and all these species scav­enge oppor­tunis­ti­cally on car­casses through­out their range. The Span­ish impe­r­ial eagle, con­sid­ered Vul­ner­a­ble by the IUCN Red List of Threat­ened Species, is now par­tic­u­larly at risk, due to the avail­abil­ity of diclofenac in Spain.

These find­ings strengthen the case for ban­ning vet­eri­nary diclofenac across Europe. Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple, many lead­ing con­ser­va­tion organ­i­sa­tions, dis­tinct vet­eri­nary bod­ies and sev­eral Mem­bers of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment have already ques­tioned the EU Com­mis­sion, the Span­ish and the Ital­ian gov­ern­ments, and the Ital­ian com­pany FATRO (the dis­trib­u­tor of the drug in Europe) on the risks of this drug to Euro­pean Vul­tures. Now, with unequiv­o­cal evi­dence that this vet­eri­nary drug can cause a much wider impact on Europe´s bio­di­ver­sity, it is time for action – please ban vet­eri­nary diclofenac now!

Ban Vet­eri­nary Diclofenac in Europe!

(Source: Vul­ture Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion on Vimeo)

Dr Toby Gal­li­gan, a RSPB con­ser­va­tion sci­en­tist and one of the authors of the paper, said: “We have known for some time that diclofenac is toxic to Gyps vul­tures, includ­ing the Eurasian grif­fon vul­ture, but we now know it is toxic to an Aquila eagle too. This sug­gests that the drug is fatal to a greater num­ber of birds of prey in Asia, Europe and around the world. We had sus­pected as much from observed declines in non-​Gyps vul­tures in Asia, but this study con­firms our worst fears.”

(Source: Vul­ture Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion news, 27.05.2014)

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