Vulture-friendly livestock drug recommended

Kathmandu, February 7:

Scientists have announced a safe veterinary drug which would not cause deaths of vultures consuming the remains of dead animals treated with Diclofenac.

A team of scientists from South Africa, Namibia, India and the United Kingdom concluded that an alternative drug Meloxicam has been found to be safe for vultures yet effective for treating livestock, stated a report published in the UK based science journal called PLoS Biology.

Meloxicam will now replace the Diclofenac, an inflammatory drug widely used in the treatment of the livestock and responsible for the rapid decline of the three vulture species from the South Asia.

White rumped, long billed and slender billed vultures in South Asia have suffered one of the most rapid and widespread population declines of any bird species, declining by more than 97 per cent over the last 10-15 years.

In case of Nepal, white rumped and slender billed have suffered over 95 per cent decline in the last 10 years, according to Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN).

A statement issued by BCN, the declines were caused by the widespread veterinary use

of the drug Diclofenac for the treatment of sick domestic livestock thorughout the Indian subcontinent.

Diclofenac kills vultures that feed on the bodies of livestock that have been given the drug shortly before death.

“The scientist’s team led by Gerry Swan of the University of Pretoria, found that the drug Meloxicam was safe to vultures at the likely range of levels they would be exposed to in the wild. Meloxicam, which is similar to diclofenac in its effectiveness for treating livestock, has recently become available for veterinary use in India and could easily be used in place of Diclofenac,” said the statement.

In Nepal, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation is already working to put a complete ban on the veterinary use of the Diclofenac. “

Producers of this drug in Nepal have already stopped manufacturing citing the effects to

the wider environment,” said the release.

“Government should put an immediate ban on the veterinary use of Diclofenac and facilitate companies to produce safe alternative drug Meloxicam. To speed up the process of Meloxicam production and import within Nepal, the government should provide subsidies until the Meloxicam production and import within Nepal, the government should provide subsidies until the Meloxicam takes over the diclofenac affected areas,” said Dr Hem Sagar Baral, a Nepali scientist involved in vulture research in Nepal.