A cinerous vulture Aegypius monachus, born in 2020 in the Boumort National Hunting Reserve, has been confirmed as the first victim of a species of vulture that died in Europe of veterinary diclofenac poisoning.
The cause of death of this vulture has been confirmed in a new study published April 5 in the journal Science of the Total Environment. The study confirms for the first time that veterinary use of diclofenac can cause death in necrophagic birds such as the Cinerous Vulture.
Diclofenac is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) used to treat injured cattle. It was the main cause of the catastrophic decline of several vulture species in South Asia. Diclofenac is extremely toxic to vultures and other wild scavengers, but a consortium led by BirdLife International has managed to ban it in the region.
In Europe, the only continent in the world where vulture populations are recovering, the veterinary use of diclofenac is currently permitted by both the European Union and the national governments of Spain and Italy. In Portugal, the authorities are checking whether or not to issue a permit.
The use of veterinary diclofenac in Europe not only poses an immediate and palpable threat to the European vulture population, it also sets a very dangerous precedent and alternative channel for veterinary use of the drug in Africa and Asia. The consequences can be devastating: 7 out of 11 species of African vultures are already critically endangered.
BirdLife International has been advocating a Europe-wide ban on veterinary diclofenac since 2013. In 2014, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) held a hearing at which BirdLife, along with several other organizations, advocated a total ban. Ultimately, the EMA did not propose to ban the drug, but suggested that EU countries should enforce stricter rules and labeling to minimize the risk diclofenac poses to vultures and other bird species. Together with the wider scientific community, we find this extremely inadequate.
Ivan Ramírez, Senior Head of Conservation at BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, explains: “The evidence found in Spain unfortunately confirms what we have been warning about for almost a decade. Vultures are already dying from veterinary diclofenac poisoning, and it could already affect their populations Trends. It is very difficult to monitor and test every single bird in the wild, and it is absurd to continue to insist on approving a drug that kills endangered species when there are many other safe and cheap alternatives in Europe. “
BirdLife International will immediately contact the European Medicines Agency, EU authorities and other international treaties such as the Convention on Migratory Species and coordinate with its national partners and allies to demand an urgent ban on this product. There is no time to waste and vultures in Europe are seriously endangered.
“This case must mark a turning point in conservation efforts. We can’t wait for birds to die when there are clear signs of an impact on bird populations,” said Ana Carricondo, coordinator of the SEO / BirdLife Conservation Programs, adding: ” We hope that the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products does not need any more cases to finally ban the use of medicines containing diclofenac for veterinary purposes.
BirdLife stresses that the diclofenac ban will not have a negative impact on animal health management or the economy of pet owners, as there are alternatives that are just as effective and inexpensive. There is broad scientific consensus on the need for a total ban on diclofenac. The ban is also supported by the international community: the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) has in its resolution UNEP / CMS / COP11 / CRP3 the need for a worldwide ban on the veterinary use of medicinal products.