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Endangered Bird Breeding Success

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007 at 18:32 by Ellen Phillips

The first oriental white-backed vulture chick has been born in captivity in India. It’s a cause for celebration, as the breeding programme wasn’t expected to hatch success for another few years. Over 95% of the birds have been wiped out in the wild, thanks to eating cattle carcasses contaminated with diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory drug. The drug is being phased out, but apparently it could take as long as 10 years before it’s no longer in the vulture’s food chain, and at least another 10 years before the birds begin to recover their numbers.It doesn’t help that the oriental white-backed vulture takes 4 or 5 years to reach maturity, and then only breeds once a year, at best, laying only one egg each time. That’s not good odds in today’s world where it seems it doesn’t take much to start pushing the numbers down.

There are apparently some programmes in place in India and Nepal to replace diclofenac with meloxicam, which isn’t fatal to the vultures.  But who knows what species the new drug will affect? Only time will tell.

The real question is why cattle in India are being fed a drug routinely which doesn’t appear to help them all that much. If it did, surely there wouldn’t be all those dead cattle lying around for the vultures to scavenge.

Oddly enough, nowhere on drug information sites does it say that vultures shouldn’t eat cows which have been prescribed diclofenac. Maybe it’s just that they can’t read. Or maybe it’s because people shouldn’t be routinely prescribing pills for cattle! And what’s with all these inflamed cattle, anyway?

If diclofenac has such an effect on birds, maybe people here who can’t afford to buy prescription medicines (thanks to the money-grubbing effects of successive governments) should start eating Indian beef.

Need an anti-inflammatory? Try the beef rogan josh.

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