Pakistan Bans Diclofenac!
11 October 2006Effective immediately, Pakistan has banned the veterinary use of diclofenac! This is terrific news and a moment for The Peregrine Fund to be very proud of its essential contribution to solving the Asian vulture problem.
Along with the ban of veterinary use of diclofenac in India earlier this year, and the production of veterinary meloxicam, a safe alternative, in Nepal at a comparable price to diclofenac, the future of vultures in south Asia is looking significantly brighter.
See the attached news clipping from the Pakistan Times, Friday 22 September 2006.
It was The Peregrine Fund's research that linked veterinary use of "diclofenac" with the rapid population crashes of three species of raptors. The discovery was the result of a three-year effort by an international team of scientists. The team was assembled and led by The Peregrine Fund and included members from Washington State University, The Ornithological Society of Pakistan, Bird Conservation Nepal, United States Geological Service, Zoological Society of San Diego, and University of California, Davis.
In the last decade, population losses of more than 95% of three raptor species have been reported throughout South Asia. A decline of this magnitude is without precedence among vertebrate species. The three species are the Oriental White-backed Vulture, Long-billed Vulture, and Slender-billed Vulture in South Asia.
Diclofenac is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that has been in human use for pain and inflammation for decades. The veterinary use of diclofenac on livestock in South Asia had grown in the past decade and has become widespread. Peregrine Fund biologists identified it as the cause of the decline and found by experiment that livestock dying shortly after diclofenac treatment held sufficient residues of diclofenac to cause kidney failure and death in vultures that consumed them.
Like Peregrine Falcons and DDT, vultures in this case are the "canary in the coal miner's cage" warning of a potentially dangerous environmental health hazard. Vultures are sampling the environment and their deaths and population collapse have demonstrated a widespread toxic effect by this pharmaceutical drug. The results are important to toxicologists, conservationists, and drug manufacturers worldwide.
Of course, there is still a long way to go, but the banning of diclofenac is a very important milestone in the journey towards the recovery of South Asian vulture populations.
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