I attended a talk by Dr Asad Rahmani, Director of the Bombay Natural History Society, about the sad sad story of how the Indian subcontinent has lost more than 90% of its vultures over the last 10 years.
Research has shown the cause to be a veterinary drug—diclofenac—administered to cattle. This drug has proved to be a death knell for vultures, which have been dying after eating dead animals injected with this medicine. There is therefore an urgent need for a ban on this drug.
When asked what individuals could do for this cause, Dr Asad Rahmani said that it would help if people could write letters to Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, asking for strict enforcement of the ban on diclofenac.
Here’s a letter to Prime Minister Singh. If this news affects you as deeply as it affected me, please copy it and send it to Dr Singh—for whatever it is worth.
Dr Manmohan Singh
7, Race Course Road
New Delhi, India
Dear Dr Singh,
Sub: Plea for strict and immediate enforcement of a ban across India, on the veterinary drug ‘Diclofenac’, because it is the cause for the decline in vulture populations across India.
We are sure you are aware that vultures are now an endangendered species. However, please see below, a short account of how this happened and what needs to be done.
Decline in vulture populations: There used to be millions of vultures in India two decades ago. The numbers have declined at an alarming rate in recent years. Now there are just 1000–2000 vultures left.
The cause: Research over the last 10 years has zoomed in on an anti-inflammatory veterinary drug—diclofenac—to be the cause of the deaths of vultures. This inexpensive drug is used across the country by veterinary doctors. Experiments show that vultures are highly susceptible to diclofenac and are killed when they feed on an animal treated with this medicine.
Importance of vultures: Vultures play a very important role in the ecosystem, and their decline is having adverse effects upon other wildlife, domestic animals and human beings.
What needs to be done: In order to reverse the vulture decline, diclofenac must be banned. Although the Indian Government has announced its support for a ban on the veterinary use of diclofenac (March 2005), this obviously needs to be implemented and properly enforced before vulture numbers can even start to recover.
Replacement to diclofenac: 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.
We plead with you, Prime Minister Sir, to help in the strict and immediate enforcement of a ban on diclofenac across India.
- Presentation by Dr Asad Rahmani, Director, Bombay Natural History Society, 23 Dec 2006, Vidyaranya High School, Hyderabad, organized by Nature Quest.