ASIAN VULTURE DECLINES
YOU MAY BE ABLE TO HELP
URGENT REQUEST FOR INFORMATION ON THE SAFETY OF NON-STEROIDAL ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRUGS (NSAIDs) AND OTHER
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRUGS WHEN USED ON CAPTIVE VULTURES, RAPTORS AND OTHER SCAVENGING BIRDS AND MAMMALS
Three species of vultures endemic to Asia are in grave danger of global extinction. Populations of Oriental white-backed Gyps bengalensis, long-billed G. indicus and slender-billed G. tenuirostris vultures have decreased by more than 95% in India and Pakistan over the last decade, and annual rates of decrease continue at around 40% a year. Due to these declines, all three species are listed by the IUCN – The World Conservation Union – as Critically Endangered: the highest threat category.
Extensive research by the Peregrine Fund, the Bombay Natural History Society, Bird Conservation Nepal, Zoological Society of London and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds indicates that diclofenac (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug - NSAID) is the major cause of the observed rapid population declines. Exposure of vultures to diclofenac occurs through its use to treat domestic livestock across Asia. Experiments show that captive vultures are highly susceptible to diclofenac and are killed by kidney failure (with symptoms of acute renal gout) within a short time of feeding on the carcass of an animal treated with the normal veterinary dose. The carcasses of wild vultures recovered from Pakistan, India and Nepal demonstrate the same symptoms of renal gout as observed experimentally, with furthermore a perfect correlation between the occurrence of gout and presence of diclofenac in dead birds.
The collapse in numbers of Gyps vultures across Asia means that other scavenging birds and mammals are now coming into contact with diclofenac contaminated carcasses to a greater extent. Whether diclofenac is affecting these species is unknown, although preliminary counts from India, suggest that populations of other (non Gyps) vultures may well be decreasing. Scavenging species of conservation concern include greater and lesser adjutants Leptoptilos dubius and L. javanicus, cinerous vulture Aegypius monachus, red-headed vulture Sarcogyps calvus, Indian wolf Canis lupus and jackal Canis aureus. Additionally, diclofenac is licensed and used in South America as a veterinary drug, and the potential impact of this on New World vultures (particularly the Andean condor Vultur gryphus) is unknown.
How you can help
An internationally agreed action plan in response to the vulture conservation crisis (www.vulturedeclines.org/page2.html) has concluded that it is essential to control the veterinary use of diclofenac so as to remove it as a contaminant of the food of wild vultures. However, control or elimination of veterinary drugs harmful to vultures is likely to be impossible without first identifying alternative drugs that are cheap and effective in livestock but safe for vultures and other scavenging species. One way we can speed up the identification of such alternatives is to make use of the experience of people who keep vultures and other scavenging species in captivity. You can help by sharing your experience of the use of NSAIDs and other anti-inflammatory drugs on scavenging species.
An earlier questionnaire (www.vulturedeclines.org/page9.html), which drew a rapid response from 15 institutions, has given vital clues into potentially “Gyps safe” NSAIDs and has enabled safety testing to begin. However, because of species-specific differences in the metabolism of NSAIDs it is essential to expand this information to a whole range of scavenging species, if possible from more institutions. If you can help then please fill in the following questionnaire and e-mail it to Dr Richard Cuthbert at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to +44 (0)1767 692365, or post to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, SG19 2DL UK, or email to Jemima Parry-Jones email@example.com at the International Centre for Birds of Prey. Given the urgency of situation, we would greatly appreciate your response as soon as possible. Please pass this questionnaire to others with experience of this topic if they have not heard about our survey.
The results will be summarised and made available to all participants in the survey. Contributors will not be identified without their permission, but their contribution will be appropriately acknowledged. Survey results will be shared with agencies involved in conservation action for vultures.
Scavenging species of interest (n.b. this list is not exclusive)
Old World Vultures – Gyps species, Egyptian vulture Neophron percnopterus, cinerous vulture Aegypius monachus, red-headed vulture Sarcogyps calvus
Kites – red kite Milvus milvus, black kite Milvus migrans
Buzzards and Eagles – Buteo species, Aquila species
New World Vultures – Andean condor Vultur gryphus, turkey vulture Cathartes aura, black vulture Coragyps atratus, king vulture Sarcorhamphus papa
Owls - Barn and grass owls Tytonidae and typical owls Strigidae
Storks – adjutants Leptoptilos species, typical storks Ciconia species
Crows – crows and ravens Corvus species, choughs Pyrrhocorax species
Egrets – Cattle egret Bulbulcus ibis
Scavenging mammals – wolf Canis lupus, jackal Canis aureus, fox Vulpes species, dhole Cuon alpinus, honey badger Mellivora capensis, binturong Arctictis binturong, striped hyaena Hyaena hyaena, Asiatic black bear Selenarctos thibetanus, brown bear Ursus arctos, sloth bear Melursus ursinus, wild boar Sus scrofa
If you have used any non-steroidal or other anti-inflammatory drugs on scavenging birds or mammals could you please let us know the following:
The species treated (please give the full and scientific name)
The NSAID or other anti-inflammatory drug used (examples Aspirin, Diclofenac, Carprofen, Eltenac, Etodolac, Flunixin, Ibuprofen, Ketoralac, Lysine aspirin Meclofenamic acid, Metacam, Meloxicam, Metamizole sodium, Naproxen, Nabumetone, Fenoprofen, Ketoprofen, Celecoxib, Indomethacin, Oxaprozin, Paracetamol, Phenylbutazone, Sulindac, Sodium salicylate, Tolmetin, Tolfenamic acid, Rofecoxib, Vedaprofen). Please give the veterinary product name as well as the active agent. Please list all active ingredients and percentages if there are more than one and give the manufacturer, distributor (if different) and country of origin of the product.
The method of administration (e.g. oral drench, oral bolus, injectable), number and frequency of doses. Number of days treated.
The dose level, i.e. amount administered per dose. Please give the amount given per dose in milligrams of active ingredient and preferably also as milligrams per kilogram of species body weight.
The condition for which the drug was used.
The clinical outcome. This need not be detailed in terms of efficacy for the condition being treated. We mainly want to know about mortality and morbidity associated with NSAIDs and other anti-inflammatory drugs. Did any animals die soon after treatment? If so, it would be very useful to have as much information as possible on the circumstances and post-mortem findings. HOWEVER, IT IS JUST AS IMPORTANT that we hear about cases where NSAIDs were used and there were no adverse consequences.
Answers in the form of copies of reports are fine.
Please send us details of the treatment and outcomes for individual animals wherever possible. However, if you use NSAIDs or other anti-inflammatory drugs regularly and sending full details is difficult, please send a summary.
This is a very important request and could mean a great deal not only to Asian Gyps vultures, but to other scavenging species in other ranges where the same problem could arise.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fax: +44 (0)1767 69236; Post: RSPB, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, SG19 2DL, UK
Or Jemima Parry-Jones on email@example.com The International Centre for Birds of Prey, 4872 Sewee Rd, Awendaw, Charleston, South Carolina, 29429 USA
Please treat this request as Urgent.
Your cooperation and assistance is greatly appreciated. Thank you.