Vets Issue Vulture Death Warning

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The Veterinary Association of Namibia recently sent out a warning to farmers not to use dicoflacen, which is responsible for the decline in the vulture population in Asia. This was after the association learnt that the medicine, which Indian farmers used in cattle medicine, was responsible for the collapse of India’s vulture population over the past 10 to 15 years. Liz Komen, of the Namibia Animal Rehabilitation, Research and Education Centre (NARREC), told New Era yesterday the drug was extremely dangerous to bird species. A group of scientists, which include those of Namibia, South Africa, Britain and India, found that meloxicam, a drug that is similar to dicoflacen, was just in treating sick cattle and posed no significant dangers to the vulture, according to a report published by the British journal PloS Biology. The drug is responsible for the drop of the vulture population by 97 percent, since the drug was introduced in the early 1990s said the journal. In Namibia dicoflacen is registered for human use for the treatment of gout and arthritis although it is also used in cats and dogs and not in large animals such a cattle. The use of dicoflacen in animals has been reported to cause deaths in vulture populations in the Indian subcontinent, says information posted on Medicne.net. It adds that the mechanism is renal failure, a known side effect of dicoflacen. Vultures eat the carcasses of the animals that have been administered dicoflacen and are poisoned by the accumulated chemicals. Unlike India, where the drug threatens vultures, in Namibia vulture populations are threatened by poisons and bush encroachment. Komen said there were certain things in the environment that threaten the life of vultures, which are the use of poison to kill predators and bush encroachment, especially in the Otjiwarongo area. “The bushes are so thick that vultures cannot see the food on the ground. It is too dangerous to come down,” she added. As far as poison is concerned, Komen said some agricultural shops were selling illegal products to farmers to use to kill predators, which killed the birds very quickly. Some of the areas where vulture populations are threatened include areas with farms that have poor grazing, conservation areas that have turned into farms and also areas bordering wildlife areas. Eighteen of Namibia’s birds are included on the IUCN’s list of endangered species. While the Egyptian vulture is regionally extinct, the Cape vulture is said to be critically endangered. The Lappet-faced vulture is also critically endangered while the other two, the white-headed vulture and the white-backed vulture are vulnerable and near threatened respectively.