35 vulture experts and conservation managers that have met in Toledo last week for the overarching workshop to consolidate the Vulture Multispecies Action Plan (Vulture MsAP) – a global plan for vulture conservation covering 15 species of wold world vultures in 124 range states covering almost all of Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, convened under the Raptors MoU of the Convention for Migratory Species – have confirmed that veterinary diclofenac – a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug highly toxic to vultures, is a real threat to vultures worldwide and should be banned – precisely when the authorities in Portugal are considering to approve it, against all scientific evidence and Portugal’s own commitments.
In 2011 Portugal adopted the resolution 11.15 on Preventing Poisoning of Migratory Birds, which, amongst its guidelines, makes a legislative recommendation to signatories to “Prohibit the use of veterinary diclofenac for the treatment of livestock and substitute with readily available safe alternatives, such as meloxicam”. Now the Portuguese veterinary agency is considering to respond favourably to a demand for a legal permit to sell veterinary diclofenac in Portugal.
One of the objectives in the CMS Vulture Multi-species Action Plan – drafted after 4 regional workshops that were attended by a staggering 250 vulture experts from the old world, is “to recognise and reduce the threat of mortality of vultures by NSAIDs and to minimize the occurrence of toxic NSAIDs in vulture range states”, and one of the consensual actions identified calls for banning veterinary diclofenac.
The drug – responsible for the catastrophic 99% decline in Asian vultures – is now legally available in Italy and Spain, after the authorities of these countries ignored all scientific evidence. Veterinary diclofenac has now been banned in 4 countries in the Indian subcontinent.
The VCF, together with a consortia of other conservation organisations, have been asking for a EU wide ban – more relevant after the EU´s own European Medicine Agency (EMA) recognised that indeed diclofenac poses a risk to Europe’s vultures, and suggested additional measures to be taken (although stopping short of recommending a prohibition).
Vultures are doing relatively well in Europe – 3 of the 4 species are now increasing in our continent due to the significant investment of the EU and conservation organisations like the VCF, but crashing everywhere else. Europe is currently the reservoir of old world vultures, as well as the leader in vulture conservation best practice. We hope that diclofenac does not put that in jeopardy – therefore we call to the Portuguese authorities to consider the overwhelming scientific evidence, EMA´s own recommendations, its commitments under the CMS 11.15 resolution and deny the marketing permit in the country.