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The beauty of vultures, the extremely important ecosystem services they provide, and the danger of veterinary diclofenac – on tv

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An excellent TV reportage on vultures – including some great footage of Pyrenean bearded vultures eating bones – has been recently aired in the German tv channel 1 Das Erste – you can see it here

Our colleagues Antoni Margalida and Jordi Canut – who is leading the valuable Project Buseu, explain why vultures are important in the European ecosystem – Vultures are nature’s clean-up crew. They don’t kill, they eat the flesh of other dead animals, thus helping to reduce the spread of disease and eliminating the need for the treatment and incineration of thousands of tons of animal remains every year, saving us millions of euros in waste management and potential emissions of hundreds of thousands of tons of C02 per year.

The film also mentions the potential danger represented by veterinary diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug, harmless to humans, that can potentially kill vultures. It´s use is unnecessary, since there are equally effective veterinary alternatives.

Vultures may be exposed to veterinary diclofenac by feeding on the carcasses of animals which have previously been treated with this veterinary drug. Its pernicious effect on vultures has been extensively documented on the Indian subcontinent, where the presence of diclofenac in only 1% of the carcasses of abandoned cows in the field led to the near extinction – a 99% decline – of five species of Vultures. Its use is now banned in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Iran and Pakistan, and this has slowed the decline of vultures there.

Despite this catastrophe, the veterinary use of diclofenac is permitted both by the European Union and by the national governments of Spain and Italy. In Portugal, the authorities are assessing a request for a permit. In 2014, and triggered by an earlier campaign, the EU´s own European Medicine Agency “confirmed that vultures and other necrophagous birds in the European Union may be at risk due to residues of diclofenac if they feed on carcasses of animals that have been treated with this medicine”, and described the two scenarios where this is possible.

The Vulture Conservation Foundation, SEO/BirdLife, SPEA (BirdLife in Portugal), BirdLife Europe and WWF have re-launched a campaign to ban veterinary diclofenac in Europe – in particular in Spain, Italy and Portugal, the three European Union countries where most of the continent’s vultures live.

The new campaign, featuring a dedicated web site and a petition campaign calling for citizen support (http://www.banvetdiclofenac.com/en/home/) brings together all updated information on the approval, commercialization and risks posed by vet diclofenac in Europe as well as a clear appeal and message for civil society to mobilise and protect Europe’s vultures.

Please visit http://www.banvetdiclofenac.com/en/home/  and sign the petition!

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