On behalf of the BirdLife International – the world’s largest conservation partnership, - the Armenian Society for the Protection of Birds (ASPB) would like to raise an urgent call and report that a drug which has poisoned 99% of all vultures in India, Pakistan and Nepal almost overnight, is now spreading rapidly across Europe. This introduction is compounding many other threats to now make vultures one of the most highly-threatened bird families on the planet.
Vultures are scavenging birds that perform important ecosystem services: by fast recycling of corpses and carcasses in the countryside, vultures prevent the spreading of diseases such as animal anthrax and rabbies and thus fulfill a vital function in the ecosystem - reduce emissions of Greenhouse gases and prevent costs associated with the collection and processing of carcasses.
Armenia, just as the rest of Europe, has four species of vultures - the globally Endangered Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus), the globally Near-Threatened Cinereous Vulture (Aegypius monachus), the globally Least ConcernGriffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus) and Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) – all listed in Armenia’s Red Data Book.
Veterinary diclofenac is extremely toxic to vultures and has recently been found to affect eagles too. Its use on cattle almost wiped out the South Asian populations of vultures in the 90’s. Vultures die from kidney failure within two days of eating tissues of cattle treated with a veterinary dose of diclofenac. Even if less than 1% of animal carcasses contained lethal levels of the drug, this would have been enough to cause the collapse of vulture numbers. The manufacture of the veterinary diclofenac, as an anti-inflammatory treatment for livestock, was outlawed in India in 2006, then banned in Nepal, Pakistan and recently also in Bangladesh. The government bans in these countries reacted to the crisis, and diclofenac levels are beginning to come down.
However, despite the tragic experience in South Asia and the availability of safe drug alternatives, the EU and some of its member states have legally authorized the veterinary diclofenac in Europe, it is now commercially available in at least two EU countries: Spain and Italy. The appearance of this drug in Europe is a new and significant threat to the European vulture populations, and creates a precedent that can have global impact on the world ́s vultures. Vultures in Africa and Europe could face extinction within our lifetime!
In a bid to stop this important family of birds slipping towards extinction, today we have launched a global campaign asking for public support to Stop Vulture Poisoning Now www.justgiving.com/stop-vulture-poisoning-now
With a Partnership of over 100 independent organisations worldwide, BirdLife has the power and the ability to save vultures, but we urgently need £20,000 to identify, and tackle the threats to these most beautiful and important of birds. Your donation will first be used to fight for a ban of veterinary diclofenac across Europe and tackle other threats in Africa. This action alone could save thousands of vultures.
Your support is vital to this work, and will make a real difference to its success. Please, dig deep, donate now and help us keep vultures flying as high as they should be.
On behalf of BirdLife International - THANK YOU.