Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Indian vulture crisis update – Diclofenac still widely used

Diclofenac vials still designed for cows, not humans - Courtesy of The Bombay Natural History Society 
February 2012. Nationwide road surveys in India, initially conducted in 1991-1993 and repeated in 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2007, revealed that, by 2007, Asian white-backed vulture (Gyps bengalensis) had fallen to 0.1% of its numbers in the early 1990s, with populations of Indian vulture (Gyps indicus) and Slender-billed vulture (Gyps tenuirostris) having fallen to 3.2% of their earlier level. The last nationwide survey in India was undertaken in 2007
A new nationwide census in India was undertaken from March to June 2011, which followed the same methods and transects as previous surveys beginning in 1992. The results indicate that populations of all three species of vulture remain at very low levels, but that the rate of decline has slowed and might even have reversed for Gyps bengalensis (details to be published in 2012).
However, the rarity of vultures means that estimates of the most recent population trends are necessarily imprecise, so slow declines may be continuing. The degree to which the decline rate of Gyps bengalensis has slowed is broadly in accord with the effects on population trend expected from a reduction in the prevalence and concentration of Diclofenac in carcasses of domesticated ungulates since the ban on veterinary Diclofenac was introduced in 2006.
These results are encouraging and suggest that conservation actions implemented in India are beginning to take effect on the remaining population of vultures. However, further action to remove all remaining Diclofenac in the veterinary sector must be enforced in order to allow numbers to increase.

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