A drug to treat livestock is the killer of the vultures of India and Pakistan.
|A Bengal vulture (Gyps bengalensis) found dead on a tree. The death of these birds is due to drug poisoning, contained in the carrion they feed on.
Photo: © Munir Virani / The Peregrine Fund.
In search of the killer. He first thought of a virus, but now it seems that the culprit has been found. According to an article published in the journal Nature, Diclofenac is an inexpensive anti-inflammatory drug that is used by farmers to treat livestock. Which then, when it dies, it often remains in the fields and is eaten by vultures, which work like perfect "scavengers".
The research was conducted by a working group organized by a major US conservation organization, the Peregrine fund (which deals with the protection of birds of prey) but using local staff and researchers. According to the authors of the work, it will not be easy to solve the problem, which also affects some human populations, such as the Parsis, who entrust the fate of the bodies of their dead to vultures.
(News updated February 10, 2004)