10 February 2007

A Free Lunch!

Slender-billed Vulture (Gyps tenuirostris)
White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis)
Indian Vulture (Gyps indicus)

Good news for vultures in Nepal, who are now receiving free--as in Diclofenac-free--meals. Conservationists concerned about the birds' survival have begun setting up feeding sites, to provide cattle that have not been treated with the deadly (to vultures) drug, which the birds can feed on.

In the early 1990s, three vulture species in India, Nepal, and Pakistan began dying at alarmingly high rates. It was soon discovered that Diclofenac, used to treat cattle, was the culprit. Vultures feeding on cattle carcasses would ingest the drug--which is good for cows, but causes kidney failure in vultures.

Although the drug has been banned in all three countries, problems with illegal use, production, and smuggling have continued, with the result that birds have continued to be affected.

Now in Nepal, conservationists with Bird Conservation Nepal, have started buying old and weak cattle, ensuring that they are Diclofenac-free, and when they die, setting them out for vultures to feast on. Their efforts have attracted large numbers of vultures, and they have plans to open several more centers in areas where large numbers of vultures are known to roost, with the hope that vulture populations will begin to recover.

Lots of news stories about vulture restaurants.

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