While the ban on veterinary painkiller Diclofenac and vulture breeding efforts are catching up, a new threat to the raptors is looming on the horizon in the form of a new painkiller, Aceclofenac, being used on livestock. According to experts, it is equally dangerous to vultures, since it ultimately gets metabolised into Diclofenac.
It is important to understand the metabolic profile of veterinary painkillers.” Studies need to be conducted demonstrating in vivo (within the cell) conversion of Aceclofenac into Diclofenac in cattle. Once proven this will establish the exposure of vultures to Diclofenac.
Aceclofenac, the new entrant in the category of cattle painkillers, bears close structural and pharmacological resemblance to Diclofenac. It has been found that Aceclofenac is a new derivative of Diclofenac and gets metabolised into the latter.
The need for a comprehensive environmental evaluation of veterinary drugs before granting licences. All other veterinary drugs, which we do not know much about, must be subjected to safety testing. Further unauthorised vets should not be allowed particularly in rural parts of the country, who prescribe medicines without realising or understanding the consequences on environment.
Noted ornithologist and director of Bombay Natural History Society emphasised on prioritising the ban on unsafe drugs and safety testing of other potentially toxic drugs in order to create a safe natural environment for vultures.
The Governments of four vulture range nations in South Asia — Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and India — had agreed in the Delhi symposium in May this year on the importance of identifying and preventing the veterinary use of other unsafe veterinary drugs with similar toxicity as Diclofenac, if the vultures are to be saved.
The Gyps species of vultures in South Asia — White-backed, Long-billed and Slender-billed — have suffered a major decline of about 99 per cent over the past decade due to the use of Diclofenac in cattle. The drug causes deaths of these raptors when they consume the carcass of such cattle.
However, with the joint efforts of BNHS and RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), three vulture conservation breeding centres are running in the States of Haryana, West Bengal and Assam for revival of the vulture population.