Links to archived news stories 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008
Click here for Press coverage and Blogs
Click here for Scientific Papers
Diclofenac in Europe – a serious threat
A key paper has been published that shows why the licensing for veterinary use of diclofenac in Europe (and elsewhere) must be stopped.
Changa Manga Vulture Conservation Centre announces first breeding success in Pakistan [April 2016]
WWF Pakistan has announced the successful hatching of its first two Oriental white-backed vulture chicks in February, and both nestlings are doing fine. This eagerly awaited and important milestone will hopefully herald further successes in future toward a release programme for the species back to the wild. Results from the Indian and Nepal breeding centres will be announced later in the season.
5th Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction Annual Report, including Blueprint for Recovery [March 2016]
This year’s SAVE report includes the updated version of the Blueprint for recovery of South Asia’s Gyps vultures to 2025. The report also contains a large number of exciting developments including full details on how SAVE Partners and the South Asian Governments (and Cambodia) are implementing priority efforts to conserve South Asian Vultures, growing SAVE Partnerships, breeding programme successes, multidose vials ban (human diclofenac), and the initial release phases.
Read the full report HERE.
Latest Vulture Safe Zone Report available [March 2016]
Following the second gathering of Vulture Safe Zone (VSZ) practioners from across South Asia, held in Lucknow in October, the report is now available of the meeting which showcases experience and best VSZ practice examples, explains various methodologies in some detail, and also discusses the challenges and solutions. The report highlights just how far VSZ work has evolved since the first meeting held at Pinjore in 2012. We believe this report together with the Mistnet article give clear guidance for an increasing number of well oriented VSZ initiatives across the region, and we hope it will help to inspire and steer more of them. The meeting was hosted by BNHS with RSPB and SOS support, but with very significant support and engagement by Uttar Pradesh Forest Department, Animal Husbandry Department and Food and Drug Administration.
Cattle metabolise aceclofenac into vulture-killing diclofenac [March 2016]
Veterinary use on cattle of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) diclofenac is the principal cause of the virtual disappearance of formerly abundant vultures from most parts of the Indian subcontinent. Vultures die from kidney failure when the feed on the carcass of an animal given the drug shortly before it died. The population of one species, the oriental white-backed vulture, has declined to one-thousandth of what it was before diclofenac came into widespread use in the 1990s. Veterinary use of diclofenac was banned in India, Nepal and Pakistan in 2006 to protect vultures, but several other NSAIDs of unknown toxicity to vultures are now sold legally in its place. Today, in an article accepted for publication in Conservation Biology, SAVE (Savings Asia’s Vultures from Extinction) partners show that cattle quickly metabolise one of these drugs, aceclofenac, into vulture-killing diclofenac.
The RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, in collaboration with the Department of Paraclinical Sciences (University of Pretoria), the Environmental Research Institute (University of the Highlands and Islands) and others, gave four cattle the recommended veterinary dose of aceclofenac, sampled their blood at intervals and analysed the samples to measure concentrations of aceclofenac and diclofenac.
The results were clear: the cattle rapidly metabolised almost all of the aceclofenac into diclofenac. The area under the plasma concentration versus time curve (a standard measure of drug absorption and elimination) for the diclofenac-metabolite was more than 10 times that of aceclofenac.
The ramifications of this finding are serious because aceclofenac is widely and legally available for treating livestock in South Asia. It is recommended for the same uses as diclofenac, including palliative care of dying cattle, which leads to the contamination of carcasses. According to repeated surveys of drugs offered for sale for veterinary use in pharmacies its availability is increasing.
"A cow treated with aceclofenac poses the same threat to Gyps vultures as one treated with diclofenac. Aceclofenac soon becomes diclofenac," remarked Toby Galligan, the lead author of the paper.
Fortunately, aceclofenac is not yet as popular as diclofenac once was. However, the Government of India’s ban on veterinary diclofenac in 2006, which reduced its use by more than half, and an amendment to that ban in 2015, which is hoped to reduce diclofenac use even further, may result in increases in aceclofenac use, particularly if pharmaceutical companies promote it as a legal and harmless substitute for diclofenac.
At present, vulture populations have stopped declining after the decrease in illegal diclofenac use, but these magnificent birds may now be pushed over the brink by an increase in legal aceclofenac use.
Four years ago, in the "Delhi Declaration" (Regional Declaration on the Conservation of South Asia’s Critically Endangered Vulture Species: 4 May 2012), the governments of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Nepal agreed to prevent veterinary use of aceclofenac so as to protect vultures. However, nothing has been done so far to impellent this commitment because, whilst aceclofenac was known to be metabolised to diclofenac in several mammal species, this had not been demonstrated in cattle. This study removes any reason to delay further. Responsible governments should immediately ban all aceclofenac formulations that can be used for treating cattle. Such a ban needs to be comprehensive, covering the manufacture, importation, retail and use of all but single dose vials for human health care. Further, bans should be established even where aceclofenac is uncommon or not currently available.
The governments of South Asia took strong and swift action against diclofenac to save their vultures and promised it for aceclofenac too. Now, it is time for them to take equally strong and swift action against aceclofenac. The alternative relaxed approach – as we have seen in the European Union with the recent approval of veterinary diclofenac there that now threatens Europe’s vultures – could be the final straw for the endemic vulture species of South Asia.
“The ultimate problem is that nowhere in the world are pharmaceutical drugs, whether for human or animal use, safety tested on the wildlife that are exposed to them before approval is given to use them" said Dr Galligan.
“We have known for over a decade that some drugs are toxic to vultures and that vultures are exposed to these drugs through the consumption of contaminated carcasses; but still there is no mandatory safety testing for such drugs before legal approval, nor a clear legislative mechanism to have these drugs banned. This is true for South Asian nations as well as the EU."
Click HERE to read the new paper.
Read the BLOG about the new paper.
Updated ‘Blueprint for the Recovery of South Asia’s Gyps vultures’ [Feb 2016]
Delighted to make available the 2016 updated ‘Blueprint for the Recovery of South Asia’s Gyps vultures’ resulting from the 5th Annual SAVE Meeting of Partners.
There are a number of revisions and updates in this latest version, reflecting some important progress as well as new challenges. Note that for the first time Responsible Agencies are listed for each action.
India signs CMS MOU with important vulture implications [Feb 2016]
The Convention for Migratory Species (CMS) will soon include all Indian vultures and this makes India’s commitment to this important convention more significant for vulture conservation and to providing the necessary resources. So this is good news!
Read more HERE
Cambodia National Vulture Workshop [Jan 2016]
BirdLife International Cambodia Programme started 2016 by hosting a National Workshop (15th Jan) on vulture conservation, with delegates from Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Environment, local civil society including Universities and local NGOs and International conservation organisations and experts, including Chris Bowden from SAVE, Wildlife Conservation Society Cambodia, World Wildlife Fund, Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity and a delegation from IUCN and Govt. of Bangladesh.
All agreed the most important threat to vultures in Cambodia is the indiscriminate use of widely available poisons such as pesticides and developed approaches to tackle this issue. An important next step for vulture conservation is a national campaign to reduce the use of pesticides and other poisons harmful to both people and wildlife! The outputs from the meeting are being used to develop a Cambodia National Vulture Recovery Plan and to update the Cambodia Vulture Activities in the next Blueprint document (more & BirdLife Cambodia FB photos here).
Haryana Chief Minister pays visit to Pinjore Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre [Nov 2015]
On 13 Nov 2015, Honourable Shri Manohar Lal Chief Minister of Haryana paid a visit to the centre, to learn about the programme and to assist with the first transfer of endangered vulture species to the release aviary. The Chief Minister was accompanied by Haryana State Forest Minister, Haryana State Forest Secretary, Chief Wildlife Warden Amarinder Kaur and a number of senior Government officials. The entourage was given a presentation by Vibhu Prakash explaining the various steps and history of the Programme and he examined one of the vultures close up (photo), including the tags that are used to monitor the birds once it is appropriate to release back to the wild. Relocating ten of the birds to the release aviary was an important step in the plans for a future release of vultures from this site, once surveys are completed within a 100km radius (including the five neighbouring states) that demonstrate that the environment is sufficiently clear of diclofenac and other toxic drugs to be safe.
PHOTO: Dr Prakash and his staff show Chief Minister and Dr Amarinder Kaur one of the birds prior to its release into the release aviary. (Photo courtesy BNHS)
5th SAVE meeting held in Kathmandu. Updated priorities agreed [Nov 2015]
The Fifth annual SAVE meeting was hosted by BCN and NTNC in Kathmandu at Hotel Grand Norling Resort 18-19 November. Despite an earthquake (5.2) on the second day when we all hurriedly vacated the building, the meeting otherwise went smoothly and all five SAVE countries were represented by the SAVE partner organisations.
The SAVE priorities were updated at the meeting (see below) and the full report with the updated Blueprint will be posted here on the website in the coming weeks.
[All photo credits BCN]
For the first time, the SAVE meeting was aligned with the Regional Steering Committee meeting which is now co-chaired by the Nepal Government. This was held on 20th November.
SAVE priorities for Asian vulture conservation for 2016
· Veterinary licenses to be withdrawn for two drugs – ketoprofen and aceclofenac - based on the good existing evidence that they are unsafe for vultures
· An effective system of regulation of veterinary drugs, based upon safety-testing on vultures (protocol already agreed for India) initiated and underway for all current painkillers (NSAIDs) and for all potential new ones entering veterinary practice. Evaluate the safety of nimesulide.
· Identifying additional vulture safe NSAIDs (alternatives for the vets)
· Communicating the recent multidose ban of diclofenac to relevant authorities and stakeholders (India).
· Major efforts urgently needed within South Asia to address the immediate and increasing gap in funding for vulture conservation which now jeopardises the programme
· Promotion of network and approach of ‘Vulture Safe Zones’ across South Asia with expansion to include trans-boundary cooperative efforts.
· Maintain and support the existing vulture conservation breeding programmes throughout South Asia
· Safe environment for first soft releases of captive bred vultures at identified sites (100km radius) in Nepal and India by 2016
· Improved availability of well formulated meloxicam products thereby facilitating their popularity with veterinary practitioners
· Link SAVE activities and meetings to closely support the ‘Regional Steering Committee’ and National Vulture Recovery Committees to facilitate the urgent implementation of the 2012 Delhi Regional Agreement
Our thanks to 'Prokriti O Jibon' of Bangladesh - for the linked 3 minute coverage of the SAVE meeting and its outputs on national TV in Bangladesh
First steps towards ketoprofen ban taken in Tamil Nadu, India [Nov 2015]
Animal Husbandry department, Tamil Nadu state withdrew all government supplies of ketoprofen from veterinary dispensaries from three districts in September. This step will be extended to the whole state for future supplies. Immediate instructions were issued by the Director, Animal Husbandry Department to strictly stop all use of ketoprofen and return existing stocks to headquarters from the three districts that still hold significant vulture populations. Ketoprofen has been shown to be lethal to Gyps vultures and its removal from veterinary practice is a SAVE priority.
Vulture Safe Zone (VSZ) workers of NGO and SAVE Associate ‘Arulagam’ in Tamil Nadu voiced its concerns over the use of ketoprofen in Government dispensaries, when it started noticing the same being supplied by the Animal husbandry department and used in place of the banned diclofenac, in June 2015.
This was brought to the notice of the state department of animal husbandry, together with supplying photocopies of the key ketoprofen toxicity references from the SAVE website. The same set of documents (including a Tamil Nadu version of the SAVE Blueprint) was then supplied to the Animal Husbandry Dept, Drug Controller’s office, Family Welfare, Forest Department, District administration and the Veterinary University. All department heads for these were met in person and hand delivered the documents with some dialogue on the urgency to eradicate the ‘menace of diclofenac and ketoprofen’. Emphasis was placed on the three Tamil Nadu districts where vultures still occur in small numbers and meetings with state Secretary of Animal Husbandry and Director were received positively. An earlier ‘Vets for Vultures’ meeting at the veterinary college had apparently helped to prepare the ground on this.
The state Animal Husbandry Director, recently issued a letter to all veterinary doctors to stop use of diclofenac stating that they would face departmental action should they continue do so. As a follow up to the Vulture Awareness day and the media coverage of the events in late July, Arulagam sent written requests to the Secretary and the Director of Animal Husbandry Department to go further and ban the drug ketoprofen.
A key letter (Roc.No55226H1/15-2, dated 21 Sep 2015) was then issued stipulating that all Tamil Nadu Government funded supply of the drug (ketoprofen) to the veterinarians will cease.
This step has also been communicated from Tamil Nadu officials to central Govt in Delhi. Other VSZ initiatives were given the details of this in October at the VSZ review meeting in Lucknow and it is hoped this initiative can now be repeated elsewhere to build pressure at a central level for ketoprofen, as well as for another known toxic drug, aceclofenac, so that state funded supplies can be stopped ahead of any wider legislation. Special thanks go to Tamil Nadu Government, Secretary & Director, Animal Husbandry Department in particular for taking this important initial step.
Incubation and husbandry training at Pinjore [Oct 2015]
A training workshop was held at the Pinjore vulture conservation breeding centre in Haryana, with participants from four Indian vulture conservation breeding centres, and also from Nepal and Bangladesh SAVE Partners.
Led by raptor breeding expert Jemima Parry-Jones together with ICBP colleague Holly Cale, ICBP’s Curator and also Vibhu and Nikita Prakash the training covered practical demonstrations of artificial incubation as well as vulture handling and rehabilitation as we look towards the first releases and full reference to the husbandry guidelines.
Arulagam and The Corbett Foundation first 'SAVE Associates' [Oct 2015]
At a highly successful Vulture Safe Zone (VSZ) review meeting, held in Lucknow with participants from ten different VSZ initiatives from India, Bangladesh and Nepal, the occasion was also taken to formally announce the first SAVE Associates.
Photo left: Representatives of Arulagam (Mr M Lenin – centre left)
Corbett Foundation (Mr Kedar Gore – centre right) – immediately after the announcement of SAVE Associate status. The announcement
was made on behalf of SAVE by Mr Chris Bowden (right) together
with Dr Vibhu Prakash (left).
Two Indian NGOs, Arulagam (Tamil Nadu) and The Corbett Foundation (their Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh initiatives), have been identified as carrying out particularly important vulture work that is directly in line with SAVE priorities, and within the Blueprint Recovery Objectives. They have been nominated for this new category of SAVE member organisation: 'SAVE Associate' and approved by the SAVE committees for a period of two years, with the objective to endorse their work and help support their vulture funding proposals. More details of this new category are available on request and will be posted on the website in the near future.
The Lucknow workshop was convened by BNHS and hosted by the Uttar Pradesh VSZ team with support and participation by senior officials of the State Forest Department, Animal Husbandry Division and the Drug Controller. Outputs from the meeting are being compiled into a report which will be posted on this website as soon as it is available, and will highlight innovative practices and the challenges and solutions that have been encountered with the establishment of Vulture Safe Zone initiatives. We hope these will further highlight good practice in VSZ work and encourage more such initiatives using the approach across South Asia.
Photo left: VSZ Lucknow Workshop participants
Iran takes exemplary step to ban veterinary diclofenac [Oct 2015]
Iran’s Department of Environment (DOE) is proud to announce the formal prohibition of all veterinary use of diclofenac as well as its production, export and import to Iran. Diclofenac is not among Iran’s approved veterinary drug list, but this ban, which takes immediate effect should ensure that this remains the case.
It is hoped that this action will be effective not just for protecting Iran’s vultures but also the large variety of raptors occurring in this very large country. This achievement would not have been possible without the close cooperation between two governmental departments, the Department of Environment and the Iran Veterinary Organization, and also a non-government institute, the Tarlan Ornithology Group. Mahmoud Marashi and Alireza Hashemi have proactively taken this issue up and using many of the resources available from the SAVE website, (following up on a recent meeting between Alireza Hashemi and Chris Bowden at the July LIFE+ Egyptian Vulture meeting) they have very quickly been able to prompt this excellent step, which we hope can be replicated by other countries in Asia and elsewhere, where there are no such preventative measure in place.
Click here for Iran’s Department of Environment press announcement.
Another record number of fledgling Endangered Gyps vultures at Conservation Breeding Facilities in India [Sept 2015]
Article contributed by Nikita V. Prakash, BNHS.
Another very good year for vulture breeding between three of the Vulture Conservation Breeding Centres in India – Pinjore, Haryana, Rajabhatkhawa, West Bengal and Rani in Assam. A record 58 nestlings have fledged this year including nine Slender-billed vulture, arguably the most endangered vulture in the world. The total fledged for Oriental white-backed vulture was 26 and for Long-billed it was 23. This is a 65% increase from last year when 35 birds had fledged during 2013-14.
The double clutching, artificial incubation and swapping of second clutch eggs with the artificially hatched first clutch nestlings proved to be very effective in increasing the number of successful hatching and fledging at Pinjore centre and helped to bolster the final number.
There are plans in place to initiate artificial incubation at Rajabhatkhawa facility in West Bengal.
Photo above: One of the nine Slender-billed vultures fledged this year (2 months old). Photo credit: Vibhu Prakash/BNHS.
Nepal publishes new Vulture Conservation Action Plan for Nepal (2015-2019)
The Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), Nepal in close coordination with Bird Conservation Nepal has updated and revised the Vulture Conservation Action Plan for Nepal (VCAP) 2015-2019. The previous Plan (2009-13) had become outdated in December, 2013 having prioritised many important conservation actions. However, DNPWC Nepal recognised that a revision was needed to reflect the progress being made including the upcoming release phase of the program. Multiple consultation and regional meetings led to the production of this plan.
The Action Plan is available here and is the first of the four South Asian countries under the Regional Steering Committee to produce an updated VCAP.
Visit the Bird Conservation Nepal website here
Indian Government bans large diclofenac vials
A major step for the future of vultures in India has just been announced on the Ministry of Health website, posting the gazetted notification restricting human formulations of injectable diclofenac to 'single unit dose pack only'!
The notification takes immediate effect (dated 17 July 2015). The reason this is so significant is that the larger 'multidose' vials are the main source of diclofenac illegally used by veterinary practitioners because they are more convenient for treating cattle than using several of the small vials containing a single human dose.
So this step will make illicit veterinary use more difficult. From recent publications (See Cuthbert et al.  Proc Royal Society) we know that diclofenac use by veterinarians has declined considerably since the ban of veterinary formulations in 2006, but unfortunately there is still widespread illegal use. Without further steps such as this, vultures remain under serious threat.
Since SAVE was created it has requested manufacturing companies to cease production of the larger vials. 3ml is more than sufficient for a single human dose, but the majority are ten times this size and ideal dose for treating livestock. Only three companies voluntarily ceased manufacture ahead of this regulation, whilst over seventy companies in India ignored these requests. Health professionals do not think that the banning of large vials poses any significant problems for the legitimate use of diclofenac for treating humans.
Vulture monitoring will need to continue to show what effect this ban will have in the longer term. Checking pharmacies to ensure that large diclofenac vials are no longer for sale, and checking dead cattle and
dead vultures for levels of diclofenac are also needed to see whether this step is sufficient to reverse vulture declines. Doing this was essential before plans for releases of the captive birds held at the BNHS breeding centres can progress. It is hoped that Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries will quickly follow this example.
Vultures continue to die from diclofenac and a new veterinary drug - nimesulide: Latest paper published in Oryx by SAVE partners
Read more about the findings of this important paper highlighting the ongoing need to make the diclofenac ban more effective and the urgent need for safety-testing of veterinary drugs being introduced to the market.
These are indeed the two highest priorities identified at the last SAVE meeting.
The full paper is also available on the resources pages with thanks to Oryx for allowing special permissions to make this available here.
Photo courtesy RSPB/Chris Gomersall
New National Geographic film highlights SAVE work and Asian vulture crisis
Look out for the new film in the 'Earth a New Wild' series on National Geographic Channel: http://www.pbs.org/earth-a-new-wild/episode-home/vultures/ - highlighting the diclofenac issue generally, BNHS work including Vibhu Prakash explaining the breeding/release programme, and the links with human and environmental health. We are requesting permissions to make it available online on this website in future.
(Also - why not check out the quiz on the link above to see whether you're already aware of the key messages?)
Recent vulture mortalities in Assam and the need to keep the removal of diclofenac in India a priority – SAVE statement
Just this year, there has been a series of vulture mortality events reported in Assam. One hundred and seventy-nine vultures have been killed in seven separate incidents. The majority of the dead vultures are Himalayan (Griffon) Vultures, but significant numbers of Oriental white-backed vultures have also been killed, as well as several slender-billed vultures. Samples of many of these vultures have been sent for analysis either at local labs or BNHS to determine cause of death.
Almost all vultures were found dead close to a carcass of a domesticated animal; therefore, the likely cause of death is incidental poisoning through the consumption of tissue from a carcass deliberately laced with poison to kill dogs and/or wild carnivores. Such poisoning events are not new; and have probably been occurring for a long time in Assam and other parts of India, but it may be increasing as a consequence of the vulture declines. Numbers of feral dogs (and maybe other mammalian scavengers) have increased in response to the disappearance of vultures and the subsequent abundance of available carcasses. This creates new problems for livestock keepers and others for whom dogs are a nuisance and may lead to an increase in poisoning events.
Diclofenac-related vulture deaths in India are still almost certainly far greater than those related to incidental poisoning, but the evidence is not always apparent. The chemicals used to poison carnivores typically kill vultures immediately and thereby their corpses are found near the poisoned carcass. By contrast, diclofenac typical kills vultures after two days, allowing vultures to disperse before dying and thereby their corpses are separate and rarely noticeable or newsworthy.
Nevertheless, incidental poisoning is apparently becoming more frequent. This is a worrying trend, especially when vulture populations are small. We certainly need to highlight this as a serious threat in addition to diclofenac and do more to avoid it happening in future.
If we can get SAVE’s immediate priorities of 1) a ban on multi-dose vials of human diclofenac and 2) all non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs safety tested on vultures (see 4th SAVE report for more details) then we can focus our attention more specifically on addressing incidental poisoning.
Note that it is partly the result of community awareness-raising activities by BNHS and other groups, such as the Wildlife Trust of India, that we are hearing more about incidental poisoning. In response, raising awareness on incidental poisoning is now incorporated into BNHS’s work.
For now, we need to keep up the pressure across South Asia to resolve the diclofenac threat as our highest priority.
BirdLife Cambodia – New SAVE Partner
SAVE is delighted to welcome our 14th formal Partner. BirdLife Cambodia has been heavily involved in vulture conservation work for many years, and recently took on a more leading role in coordinating vulture work in Cambodia.
The Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB) is a major partner of BirdLife Cambodia and are helping to implement vulture conservation projects in Cambodia.
Phearun Sum who attended the 4th SAVE meeting in Dhaka will be the point of contact, and you will have seen from the latest SAVE report the major contribution they make together with WCS and WWF Cambodia.
We all look forward to increased contact and attendance of future meetings.
New SAVE Chairman
It is with great appreciation that we thank Professor Ian Newton for his four-year term as chairman since the creation of SAVE. It has been an important boost to the standing and establishment of SAVE having such a distinguished and experienced person as our founding Chair. Ian has kindly completed four years as chair and has helped us with the full agreement and support of the SAVE Board to find his successor Professor David Houston. Ian is very fittingly also being awarded the Salim Ali medal this month by BNHS.
Photo left of Ian at the 3rd SAVE meeting in 2013
Like Ian, David began his research career in Oxford University,
and is well known in the 'raptor world'. His doctoral research was on vultures in East Africa, studying their role in the scavenger community. He subsequently joined the staff of Glasgow University, researching various aspects of bird ecology and physiology, and rising through the ranks to become Professor. During his career, he has also studied New World vultures, including their use of smell in detecting food items. His research background, committee experience and diplomacy make him an excellent choice as the next SAVE Chairman, and it is with great pleasure that we welcome him on board.
David [photo right] will formally take on the role from 1st April and we look forward to seeing him at this year’s SAVE meeting in late November.
Latest SAVE Report including updated Blueprint now available
The report from 4th SAVE meeting includes updated SAVE priorities for vulture conservation in Asia, plus a full report of the meeting, and all updates from the thirteen SAVE Partners. It also includes an updated version of the Blueprint for Recovery of Asian Gyps Vultures which incorporates the latest developments and progress.
Vulture Safe Zones... What’s involved? a full explanation newly available...
A new article published in the latest ‘Mistnet’ explains what exactly is involved in Vulture Safe Zone (VSZ) work, and what it aims to achieve. It is primarily about advocacy targets and actually it explains why vulture restaurants may not always be relevant.
The authors from VSZ work across South Asia give a lot more detail than was previously available, and we hope this article will inspire more local VSZ initiatives to develop.
Our thanks go to Bombay Natural History Society for publishing this vulture special issue and for allowing us to make it freely available.
The special edition of Mistnet also includes the Vulture Blueprint and can be downloaded here.
Bangladesh Finance Minister endorses key SAVE priorities at 4th SAVE meeting
The 4th annual SAVE meeting was held in Dhaka in November and at the inaugural session, Mr. Abul Maal A Muhith, Hon'ble Finance Minister and chief guest gave a truly historic speech, fully supporting the recent vulture conservation initiatives in Bangladesh and the urgent need to remove diclofenac, the formalising by Bangladesh Government of two Vulture Safe Zones, and significantly the immediate need to ban veterinary ketoprofen which has become the most popular replacement veterinary drug and is also known to kill the vultures.
Special guest was Mr. Md. Nojibur Rahman, Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests & the session was chaired by Mr. Md. Yunus Ali, Chief Conservator of Forests, Bangladesh Forest Department, Ministry of Environment and Forests, together with SAVE Chairman Professor Ian Newton. Thanks go to IUCN Bangladesh for their help with hosting us.
Full details of the highly successful meeting will be reported shortly, together with a detailed SAVE report of activities of all 13 partners, which will be downloadable, including an updated version of the ‘Blueprint for Recovery of South Asia’s Critically Endangered Gyps vultures’.
Photo credit: Sarowar Alam Dipu/IUCN
An important new study by the SAVE partnership reveals one reason why uptake of veterinary meloxicam has not been accepted by vets and livestock owners as rapidly as was hoped
An important new study by the SAVE partnership [Aligning species conservation with animal welfare: formulations of vulture-safe meloxicam manufactured in South Asia and the reaction of goats to their administration] reveals one reason why uptake of veterinary meloxicam, the only NSAID known to be safe for vultures, has not been accepted by vets and livestock owners as rapidly as was hoped. The study found that commercial formulations of veterinary meloxicam produced in the Indian subcontinent tended to be painful when injected into goats - considerably more so than the illegal veterinary NSAID diclofenac that is toxic to vultures. This may make vets reluctant to use the vulture-safe drug.
This problem is nothing to do with the active molecule meloxicam, but is a result of the formulation method. The painful meloxicam formulations had high (alkaline) pH and high osmolarities, whereas another meloxicam formulation tested which had neutral pH and lower osmolarity did not cause pain. At SAVE's request, the way to formulate meloxicam so that it is not painful has been made freely available to drug manufacturers in India by the German pharmaceutical
company Boehringer-Ingelheim. The Indian company Intas are now marketing meloxicam with an improved formulation 'Melonex'. SAVE encourages and assists pharmaceutical companies to produce improved meloxicam formulations.
New key papers - number of vultures deaths per meal reduced by two thirds since deadly drug ban & flunixin also toxic .......But now the threat has moved to Europe as diclofenac is licensed for veterinary use in Italy and Spain
The number of vultures dying from diclofenac contamination in India has reduced by more than two- thirds between 2005 and 2009, according to a study published in an issue of the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (B) on the risk and impacts of pharmaceuticals in the environment.
Since the banning of the vulture-toxic veterinary drug in India in 2006, the number of livestock carcasses found containing the drug has halved. However, experts say that by 2009 6% of carcasses were still contaminated with diclofenac, despite its use to treat livestock now being illegal.
Scientists sampled thousands of cattle carcasses dumped in the open and therefore available to vultures throughout India between 2004 and 2010. They found that in 2009, the proportion of carcasses positive for diclofenac was 49% lower than four years earlier. Using these data, in conjunction with information on the concentration of the drug, scientists calculated that the probability per meal of a vulture being killed had fallen by 65%.
A decade ago, three species of South Asian vulture faced near-extinction because of widespread use of diclofenac to treat livestock, the carcasses of which were their main food source. One species, the oriental white-backed vulture, declined by more than 99.9% in just 15 years. However, vulture populations are now showing the first signs of recovery. The governments of India, Pakistan and Nepal banned veterinary diclofenac in 2006 and Bangladesh banned it in 2010.
Dr Toby Galligan, RSPB conservation scientist and co-author of this study, said: “The findings of our study are both good news and bad news. The good news is that veterinary use of diclofenac in India has decreased significantly; the bad news is that it has not stopped completely".
“This is because Indian pharmaceutical companies are manufacturing diclofenac for human use in vials large enough to treat livestock; and some veterinarians and livestock owners continue to choose diclofenac over the vulture-safe alternative, meloxicam".
“Six percent of livestock carcasses remained contaminated with diclofenac in 2009, which equates to 1 in 200 vultures dying from diclofenac poisoning every time they feed. This might not sound like much, but we know that the death of 3 in 200 vultures per meal was enough to have caused the catastrophic declines".
The study strengthens the case for a ban on large vials of diclofenac in South Asia, which will make livestock-sized doses of diclofenac more expensive and more complicated to administer to cattle without impacting human healthcare. Vulture conservationists think that this additional ban will stop the illegal misuse of human diclofenac to treat livestock.
Despite ample evidence for the impact diclofenac has had in South Asia, last year veterinary diclofenac was approved for manufacture and use in Italy and Spain and has since been distributed to other European countries. A coalition of conservation organisations, including the RSPB and BirdLife partners in Spain and Italy, alongside Members of the European Parliament and members of the public are campaigning for this decision to be reversed. In response, the European Commission has asked the European Medicines Agency to assess the risk diclofenac poses to Europe’s scavenging raptors. They will present their findings at the end of November.
In another article, published online in the Journal Conservation Biology, a Spanish-British-American team reported a combination of residues of the drug flunixin and renal failure in a dead Eurasian griffon in Spain. Flunixin is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like diclofenac and meloxicam. This is the first case of flunixin poisoning a vulture and the first case of a wild European vulture being exposed to a NSAID, though the toxicity of flunixin to captive vultures was reported seven years ago.
Dr Galligan continued: “Europe, particularly Spain, is home to significant populations of vultures and eagles, which are now at risk of declines due to diclofenac contamination of their food. Our opponents claim that Europe is different to South Asia, but it is not – in both regions vultures are provided livestock carcasses, either in the field or at carcass dumping sites; and, as our colleagues have shown, in both regions vultures are exposed to NSAIDs. The European Commission needs to recognise this problem and impose a continent-wide ban on veterinary diclofenac and other vulture-toxic NSAIDs".
The RSPB is a member of SAVE (Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction), which is a consortium of international organisations created to oversee and co-ordinate conservation, campaigning and fundraising activities to help the plight of South Asia’s vultures. SAVE is campaigning for mandatory safety testing of all veterinary pharmaceuticals of scavenging birds where ever they are used.
SAVE is working to stop veterinary use of diclofenac by advocating vulture conservation to governments and raising awareness among veterinarians and livestock owners. SAVE promotes the use of meloxicam, the only known vulture-safe NSAID, which is just as effective in treating livestock as diclofenac. While these issues are being tackled in situ, SAVE has established captive breeding populations of vultures at centres in India, Nepal and Pakistan. These captive bred vultures will be released to supplement surviving wild populations, but only when it is safe to do so.
A third paper was also published last month which examined the genetics of the vulture populations in the Indian Conservation Breeding Centres, and happily it found relatively good diversity and other important findings and implications for captive management.
All these papers and many more are available from the Resources pages of this site.
Tragic death of vulture keeper - Oct 2014
It is with great sadness that we report the tragic death of Mr Hari Bote, keeper at the Kasara Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre, Nepal. Hari was killed by a tiger whilst on duty at the centre last month, where he had worked since its construction.
The centre has this year successfully hatched and fledged its first Oriental white-backed vulture this year which was ringed and released by the team. In Hari’s honour, this first fledgling has been named Hari. Our thoughts and condolences are with Hari’s family and friends.
Record breeding success again at BNHS centres in India, including ‘Phoenix’s’ first (and second!) chicks - Oct 2014
We are pleased to announce that 37 nestlings have recently fledged from three of the vulture conservation breeding centres across India . This comprises 17 Oriental white-backed, 16 Long-billed and 4 Slender-billed vultures. The numbers were again boosted by the artificial incubation efforts at Pinjore, and new trials of ‘chick exchanging’, an exciting new dimension to conservation breeding of vultures
The chick exchange trial was undertaken on several pairs. The first clutch egg (they only lay one) is removed for artificial incubation and hatched in incubators. The chicks are then returned back to their parents on nests in exchange for the second clutch egg which was then incubated artificially. This improves the success rate of the second clutch eggs, as the hatchability by parental incubation of these eggs has been somewhat low. The second clutch nestlings that hatched were hand reared in groups as has been done previously with the first eggs.
Another landmark moment was that one of our first two chicks fledged back in 2008 (named ‘Phoenix’ at a fundraising dinner in London) herself reared her first chick, and then her second egg also hatched in an incubator and fledged successfully!
This year, for the first time, all the three species of vultures; Oriental white-backed, Long-billed and Slender-billed vultures housed at the West Bengal Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre have bred successfully. Most notably, we hatched and fledged 2 Long-billed vulture eggs at the centre for the first time. All the Long-billed vultures housed here were collected as nestlings from the wild in 2007 and are now maturing and attempting breeding. They first attempted breeding in 2013 without success.
This long-term commitment to the Conservation Breeding Programme in India can now be seen to be providing real dividends, through the passionate commitment of the centre staff and the dedicated partners and supporters, ensuring we have a healthy population of all species for the ultimate goal of releasing then back into the wild in the not too distant future.
Photo of Oriental white-backed vulture chick courtesy of Dr Vibhu Prakash.
Valued supporters - Sept 2014
We are delighted to announce that we have secured a major sponsor to help us deliver the SAVE campaign. Boehringer Ingelheim (BI) have committed new financial support for the initiative to be channeled through RSPB. This support will help SAVE to continue to establish and develop Vulture Safe Zones and support the eventual release and satellite tracking of the birds over the coming year.
BI have already been instrumental in the campaign to save the birds, not least with the development of a safe alternative to the veterinary drugs that are lethal to vultures, but also by providing volunteer expertise, and expert advice.
We have some way to go before we can declare the vultures ‘saved’, and we are very much hoping that with continued financial and technical backing from BI, Rufford Foundation, SOS and other important donors we can be confident of pulling off what would be one of the greatest conservation success stories. Watch this space! Photo to right of Long Billed Vultures courtesy of Mandy West.
Channel i screens ‘Nature and Life’ vulture program (Bangladesh national TV) - July 2014
Our thanks to Prokriti O Jibon Foundation for permission to post this video link, and in particular to host Muqeed Majumdar Babu who is actively taking up the cause in Bangladesh.
Click here to watch.
National Workshop on new Vulture Conservation Action Plan for Nepal - July 2014
Birdlife International Nepalese partner Bird Conservation Nepal in collaboration with the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), Nepal organized a one day national workshop on Vulture Conservation Action Plan in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Mr. Megh Bahadur Pande, Director General of Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC) chaired the program.
The workshop was attended by chiefs and representatives from Department of Drug Administration, Department of Livestock Service Office, Department of Agriculture, WWF-Nepal, ZSL-Nepal, National Trust for Nature Conservation, Himalayan Nature, Central Veterinary Laboratory and Nepal Rangers’ Association.
Dr. Maheshwar Dhakal, Ecologist at DNPWC, Mr. Khadananda Paudel, Vulture Conservation Officer at BCN, Mr. Chris Bowden, International Species Recovery Officer at RSPB and Dr. Jhamak Karki, Associate Professor at Nepal Engineering College presented on the history, cause of decline of vultures in South Asia, update on research and conservation of vultures in Nepal and South Asia and the new draft of Vulture Conservation Action Plan.
Dr. Narendra Man Babu Pradhan, Chief Executive Officer at BCN thanked all the participants and Mr. Megh Bahadur Pande, Director General of DNPWC closed the ceremony with his feedback on the draft Vulture Conservation Action Plan for Nepal.
Altogether, 31 participants used the forum to discuss and provide feedback over the draft of the Vulture Conservation Action Plan (2014-2018).
SAVE is delighted to welcome two new SAVE members! Bangladesh Forest Department has formally agreed to become a Government Partner and the Bangladesh National Vulture Recovery Committee (BNVRC) which now runs the major new vulture project is welcomed as a Core Partner,
These two additions represent a very important extension for SAVE and acknowledges the recent increase in activity to address the vulture crisis in Bangladesh. This brings the number of formal SAVE Partners to thirteen. Note also that the 2014 SAVE meeting will be held in Dhaka this November.
New study shows vulture-killing drug kills eagles too
Veterinary diclofenac is now ‘a global problem’ threatening a host of already vulnerable birds of prey
Just months after the news that the vulture-killing drug diclofenac had been licensed for veterinary use in Europe, two groundbreaking scientific studies have revealed that a greater diversity of birds of prey, including some eagles, are susceptible to its effects than previously thought.
Read the Media Release HERE and Blog HERE.
You can also read the Bird Life International paper HERE
First vultures moved to Bhopal Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre
On Monday the 21 April 2014, a further milestone was achieved in the Asian Gyps Vulture Conservation Breeding Programme. Fifteen vultures; 8 Long-billed and 7 White-backed were successfully sent from the Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre, Pinjore, Haryana to the new Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. Read more HERE
Photo shows the team with birds boxed and ready to leave Pinjore centre. Photo courtesy of VCBC, Pinjore.
Article contributed by Nikita Prakash
More information can be found on the BNHS website
New battle to stop veterinary diclofenac in Europe
After the efforts across South Asia, and also in Africa, it has emerged that the pharmaceutical company, Fatro has obtained licenses to market veterinary diclofenac in Italy and Spain where most European vultures occur. This not only threatens vultures in Europe, but also could undermine the progress in Asia, both the principle of it and prospect of leakage of the products and the general veterinary practice of using the killer drug. BirdLife International in Brussels together with The Vulture Conservation Foundation are leading the efforts to counter this through European Union, with support from SAVE and the Vulture Specialist Group, and BirdLife Partners including SEO, LIPU and RSPB.
For more information see the Vulture Conservation Foundation website and the short film there.
There’s also an online petition – do please sign!
New paper highlights two more threatened vultures apparently prone to diclofenac
A new paper in the Cambridge Journal Bird Conservation International shows how population trends of both Red-headed Vulture and Egyptian Vultures have declined across India in parallel with those of the Critically Endangered Asian Gyps species. They have also shown corresponding slight signs of recovery again corresponding to the diclofenac ban and reduced levels of the drug in cattle carcasses. This strongly suggests they may also be intoxicated by diclofenac, although this has not been experimentally determined.
Press coverage includes:
Times of India
Hindu Business Line
World Bank support begins for major Bangladesh vulture project
IUCN Bangladesh has been awarded a major project: "White-rumped Vulture (Gyps bengalensis) Conservation in Bangladesh: Establishment of the toxic drug free Vulture Safe Zones (VSZ) and Monitoring of the Population trend" as a sub-project component of the "Strengthening Regional Cooperation for Wildlife Protection' Project" from the Bangladesh Forest Department funded by World Bank.
Key components of the work include targeting the illegal use of diclofenac by vets, and the establishment of at least two Vulture Safe Zones and emphasis will be given in the Greater Sylhet (northeast), Greater Khulna (southwest) and Greater Mymensingh (north) areas. There is also a vulture population monitoring component as well as national advocacy work. The work formally began in March 2014 and is for two years. Updates on the work will appear shortly on www.iucn.org/bangladesh and the Principal Investigator is Mr A B M Sarowar Alam.
Plea for ketoprofen to be banned in Bangladesh
Press coverage of 2012 study highlights a study by Dr Monirul Khan and that diclofenac is an ongoing serious threat in Bangladesh, and the use of ketoprofen (also unsafe for vultures) is increasing.
Blueprint for the Recovery of South Asia’s Critically Endangered Gyps Vultures. Download here
This action plan has been compiled with expert input from all five countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Nepal and Pakistan; identifying agreed priority actions up until 2025. This can help form the basis for building and updating respective national vulture action plans, and is an important output from SAVE and from numerous officials and experts from Government and NGO sectors. It was significantly developed and discussed at the November 2013 SAVE meeting.
BBC highlights vultures all round (February 2014)
BBC World TV featured the environmental impact of the crash in Asian vulture populations with a short TV feature in the ‘Power of Nature’ series, labelled ‘earth’s Clean-up Crew’. There are interviews with SAVE members Jemima Parry-Jones and Ananya Mukherjee as well as environmental economist Pavan Sukhdev. For those of you outside the UK, check http://www.bbc.com/future/columns/power-of-nature It was broadcast 6 separate times in early February 2014!
Meanwhile, independently on UK’s BBC2 TV, another great bit of publicity came in the form of a vulture documentary ‘Beauty in the Beast’ by Charlie Hamilton James. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03sfvhd and both features did a good job of clarifying the main cause as diclofenac. These come shortly after the prominent BBC news piece http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25963100 mentioned earlier which highlights SAVE priorities and the 2016 first release proposals.
One more link highlighting 7 surprising facts about vultures in general
Support for New Vulture Safe Zone in Madhya Pradesh
BNHS is set to establish a new VSZ in Madhya Pradesh with support from Rio Tinto for 5 years. This is an important addition to the network and significantly it includes Long-billed Vultures which were highlighted as needing more attention in the VSZ network in the SAVE report
See the following links in the Indian press for more details.
The Hindu Business Line ....... CounterCurrent.org
3rd SAVE Report now available – Updated priority actions and challenges from latest meeting of partners.
Read full details of the significant progress and updated remaining priorities - for banning large human diclofenac vials, for effective regulation of all veterinary painkillers, for establishing safety-testing of new drugs and finding funds to (a funding gap is growing) to implement the actions needed to secure the success that we believe is in sight. A summary version without the full reports can also be downloaded.
Pharmacies in hill areas come under scanner for misuse of drugs - The Hindu 28/11/13
The State Drug Controller is commended by SAVE for taking an important step for vultures and the environment.
The State Drug Control Department is investigating reports of a painkiller meant for human use being diverted for veterinary purposes in the hills of Tamil Nadu, India. Although the painkiller meant for cattle has already been banned, it is still regularly used illegally for veterinary purposes.
Pharmacies located in Gudalur, Thalavadi and Sathyamangalam, besides Sirumugai, Mettupalayam and Annur, have been put under surveillance following reports of Diclofenac Sodium being sold for use for treating sick cattle. Read more HERE
3rd SAVE meeting 7-9 November in West Bengal
The annual meeting of SAVE members takes place this week at Rajabhatkhawa and Alipurduar in West Bengal, India. BNHS is hosting the meeting together with help from West Bengal Forest Department, and the financial support of RSPB. We are honoured that the meeting will be opened by West Bengal’s State Forest Minister and also attended by the State Secretary.
Almost 50 participants have confirmed their participation this year, and this includes delegates from all four South Asian countries as well as from Myanmar and Cambodia. The three day meeting will review the progress of the last year as well as the remaining challenges such as getting the large multidose human diclofenac vials banned, and the safety-testing system of potentially unsafe veterinary drugs up and running.
The meeting will include a tour of the BNHS and Forest Department Rajabhatkhawa Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre where successful breeding of two of the species has occurred earlier this year including the rarest species, a slender-billed vulture.
Photo caption: BNHS staff of the West Bengal Centre
Welcome Nic Masters and other SAVE vulture team changes.
Veterinary expertise for the vulture breeding centres is supplied by ZSL, and we (belatedly) welcome Nic Masters [photo left] to the team – he has already paid three visits to
the breeding centres of India and Nepal in 2013 and is very much part of the team. Nic has taken over from Andrew Routh who has done a fantastic job on this,
ever since 2004 when he became involved. Andrew has moved to Jersey and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and we know he remains very willing to be
involved if needed in emergencies.
Nic takes on Andrew’s role both as Chief Veterinarian at ZSL and on the vulture programme.
Meanwhile, we say farewell and a big thank you to Richard Cuthbert who has played a crucial key role within SAVE and the vulture research and implementation of the
actions needed, again since 2004... Richard is taking up the position of Papua New Guinea Country Manager for WCS and we warmly wish him well in his new role.
Professor Rhys Green has kindly agreed to take on Richard’s role in chairing the SAVE Technical Advisory Committee, with Jemima Parry-Jones remaining as Co-chair.
Note also that Toby Galligan and Nic Masters have formally been invited to join the TAC following on from the above changes, as has Khadananda Paudel who
replaces Anand Chaudhary. Do have a better look on the people pages!
Nepalese Pharma company sets good example ceasing production of multidose human diclofenac vials.
More than 50 South Asian companies produce multidose human diclofenac vials which are being illegally sold and used for veterinary purposes, and despite moves in India over two years ago to ban the manufacture of these large vials, unfortunately they have not yet been converted to government action.
SAVE took the initiative to write to all the relevant companies in India and Nepal and alert them to the environmental impact these vials are having on vultures specifically in March 2013, and we have just heard that one company – National Healthcare Pvt. Ltd. in Nepal (under the brand name Ninja) has proactively done the right thing and stopped production of their 30ml vials.
National Healthcare join the two Indian companies Novartis and Intas that earlier took this important step in 2012, both of which deserve full credit for the move. However, with so many more companies producing these vials, it urgently needs to be taken up much more widely. We seriously hope that the Governments of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will act quickly to bring legislative pressure on the many companies concerned to prevent this convenient source of diclofenac being made all too easily available for illegal veterinary use, thereby threatening to undermine the progress in saving these species and environmental cleaners from extinction.
The companies are fully aware of what they are doing, and up to now, there is no legislation to prevent this.
Photo Chris Gomershall/RSPB
Professor Ian Newton, Chairman of SAVE, commented that “this positive response by National Healthcare gives hope that other companies will follow, but it seems clear that without Government intervention to prevent all companies from producing the larger veterinary-sized multidose human vials, then we risk losing the battle to save these magnificent birds which do so much to keep the environment clean.�? He added that “actions along these lines need to be implemented in all South Asian countries in order to be effective, and although India has the highest number of companies producing these larger vials, Pakistan and Bangladesh are also key.�?
Humans only usually require a dose of less than 2ml, so any vials larger than 3ml are only required for veterinary purposes – and the banning of these larger vials was identified at the last SAVE meeting as the single top priority action required.
Welcome aboard to IVRI! We are delighted to confirm the formal addition of the Indian Veterinary Research Institute as Research Member of SAVE.
IVRI has already played a key role in SAVE and vulture conservation in recent years with its supporting role for cattle carcass sampling, vulture autopsies and hopefully the safety testing for other NSAIDs in the near future. This confirmation is an important step for consolidating the relationship with SAVE and you will notice that Dr A K Sharma and Dr P Mohini both already serve on the SAVE FACC and TAC subcommittees respectively.
This brings the number of formal members to eleven.
Regional Steering Committee meets again in Delhi
The Central Zoo Authority and Wildlife Institute of India together with IUCN called the third meeting of the newly established Vulture Regional Steering Committee at the Habitat Centre in New Delhi on 3rd April 2013. Chaired by India’s Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, and the Additional Director General, the meeting formalised the creation of National Steering Committees of three of the four range states, and discussions covered the process for updating national vulture action plans, potential funding sources and other progress and developments since the last meeting. All four countries were represented including Pakistan delegates who did so via Skype link.
SAVE Partners were well represented and priorities from the latest SAVE report were highlighted. It was agreed in principle to try to coordinate dates of future meeting(s) with SAVE meetings to help with logistics for attendance. The engagement of all four countries governments to implement the May 2012 Regional Declaration is a very encouraging development and the newly formed national steering committees will play a central role.
March 2013: Efforts by local NGO and Forest Department prompt positive action by Food and Drugs Administration of Maharashtra.
Click here to learn more and download the order issued. And see press coverage here.
Press Release 9th February 2013
Praise for Governments in ‘Science’ article.
South Asian Governments and NGO efforts are saving vultures and doing better than western Governments in the past. Download here.
Latest SAVE report now available
The report from the 2nd SAVE meeting held in Kathmandu in November 2012 is now available for download. Important updates on the progress over the past year across all four countries and most importantly the revised recommendations of priority actions are key elements of the report.
A new book called "What has nature ever done for us?" by Tony Juniper, tells the stories of how natural systems sustain our welfare. A case in point concerns the economic value of India’s vultures – or more accurately their former value.
Tony is a former Chief Executive of Friends of the Earth, writer and top campaigner. Read more here in this guest blog where Tony profiles his new book.
New scientific paper on the Molecular sexing of threatened Gyps vultures
Major increase in 2012 fledging success from the Indian vulture breeding centres
Breeding figures for 2012 were another major improvement for all three Gyps species, with some further significant landmarks achieved this year. 26 fledgelings were raised and fledged in total from the three BNHS centres, which includes the first ones at the Rani Forest, Assam, and the world's first ever artificial incubation of slender-billed vulture offspring from Pinjore, Haryana. Further vultures were also fledged from the centre at Rajabhat khawa, West Bengal. There are video clips available from these BNHS centres and some press coverage from individual centres. One further landmark was achieved with the first two oriental white-backed vultures fledged at Junagadh Zoo, Gujarat.
The breeding success was reported at the SAVE meeting of partners in Kathmandu in November (see below), where the focus on the prospects for release of these birds in future was a major topic. It is planned that they will only be released in 'Vulture Safe Zones' where it has been demonstrated that diclofenac and other toxic drugs have been successfully removed from the environment.
Press release 7th November 2012: First signs of recovery for Asia’s critically endangered vultures.
Link to scientific paper published online by PlosOne.
November 2012: The second SAVE meeting was held in Kathmandu from Nov 5th-6th hosted by Birldlife International’s Nepalese partner Bird Conservation Nepal. The meeting was attended by world raptor experts Ian Newton and Jemima Parry-Jones amongst 30 other prominent scientists, partners and representatives from four South Asian countries i.e. Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The focus of the meeting reviewed progress on diclofenac levels, vulture populations, captive breeding, vulture safe zones and the safety-testing of untested drugs. Then developing an advocacy strategy that all ten partners can implement to combat the ongoing use of diclofenac and the spectre of other untested drugs being allowed to take their place and undo the progress to date in getting the veterinary formulations banned. Further updates and outputs from the meeting will be posted soon.
A new danger to vultures is highlighted in a paper just published in the Journal of Raptor Research – Aceclofenac is not currently banned for veterinary use in South Asia and efforts are urgently needed to address this as well as for other unsafe or untested drugs.
BNHS draws attention to recent paper on aceclofenac - Mumbai 22nd August 2012
Link to new scientific paper published by the Raptor Research Foundation at BioOne
September 2012 - International Vulture Awareness Day has grown from a small-scale event to a globally recognised day where organisations around the world arrange activities on or about the 1st of September to highlight the importance of saving these species. It proved to be a huge success with over 200 organisations participating.
On the 1st September 2012 the aim was for each participating organisation to carry out their own activities to highlight vulture conservation and awareness activities of SAVE partners and many more such as:
- BCN, NEPAL: Massive vulture conservation awareness activities through training, rallies, workshops and documentaries in 20 districts in Nepal, organised by Bird Life Nepal
- BNHS, INDIA: Presentations and vulture awareness workshops in association with Gujarat Council of Science Technology, organised by Bombay Natural History Society
- PAKISTAN: Awareness lectures, documentary, quiz, photography competition, face painting, adoption of vultures, organised by Lahore Zoo and WWF Pakistan
- UK: SAVE (Saving Asia's Vultures from Extinction) fundraising, awareness and social evening at Indian restaurant
- INDIA (others): Vulture Fair and Vulture mask making by students, road shows and human chain demonstration by Arulagam; Vulture presentation at Kankaria-Zoo BCSG members, forest official, municipal commissioner, ornithologists and local people; and documentary film show on vultures by Wildlife Heritage Conservation Society.
October 2012 - Vulture plight highlighted in Der Falke
May 2012 - Meeting in India gives massive hope to South Asia’s endangered vultures
Link to the Original Declaration
New Supporting Partner for Vulture Safe Zones work "Save Our Species" (SOS) announced.
Crucial support for priority SAVE actions within India has started in April for two years. This is an important boost for developing this work in four Indian states, working to preparing these areas for the release of the captive breeding centre birds once diclofenac and other hazardous drugs can be confirmed as being cleared from these areas. The funds have been allocated through RSPB and BNHS and are being used to support and supervise locally based work, initially in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat, but expanding to other states in the near future. For details of what exactly is involved in Vulture Safe Haven (also known as Vulture Safe Zones) work, click on this link.
Save Our Species is a global coalition to build the biggest species conservation fund, supporting on-the-ground field conservation projects all over the world.
Vulture Workshop held in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh in May 2012
The first vulture safe zone workshop was held in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh on 16th May, to raise the profile of vulture conservation work in UP which has been identified as one of the important colonies for the vultures in India. The workshop was organised by Katerniaghat Foundation and attended by senior forest officials, BNHS, Tarai Nature Conservation and RSPB. It had a good impact in terms of raising awareness on the vulture safe zone work, the misuse of human diclofenac in the veterinary sector and in giving a good press coverage with a strong message in some of the leading newspapers in UP.
Bird Conservation Nepal have just produced their annual comprehensive summary of vulture activities across Nepal 2011-12
Cambodian Vulture Conservation Project
Cambodia Vulture Conservation Project - Newsletter January 2012
Report of the 1st SAVE meeting held in Pinjore, Haryana India 16-18 November 2011
Latest Scientific Papers
First evidence that populations of the critically endangered Longbilled Vulture Gyps indicus in Pakistan have increased following the ban of the toxic veterinary drug diclofenac in south Asia.
Bird Conservation International / FirstView Article / October 2012, pp 1 9
DOI: 10.1017/S0959270912000445, Published online:
Aceclofenac as a Potential Threat to Critically Endangered
Vultures in India
Published by the Raptor Research Foundation at BioOne
New husbandry guidelines for Gyps vultures has just been produced by the team involved in the Indian conservation breeding programme, including lead author Dr Vibhu Prakash of the Bombay Natural History Society. It gives detailed guidance on all aspects of managing the breeding programme, for the three Critically Endangered Gyps species, and although we continue to learn and update based on the growing experience, it is hoped this will be of great value to those directly involved is such work throughout Asia, as well as having wider value for other conservation breeding work with other species.
Jemima Parry-Jones, whose expertise has underpinned this work said “The growing success of the programme shows that we’re getting most things right, but there’s always more to learn, and having a manual like this to refer to helps to avoid repetition of earlier mistakes, and as importantly shares our experiences with others. We hope this will be of most value to all of those involved as a readily available reference�? .
The manual is available to download here, and is a direct output of SAVE partners.
Historical and current status of vultures in Myanmar
Two new scientific papers on Diclofenac research
Assessing the ongoing threat from veterinary non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to Critically Endangered Gyps vultures in India.
Cuthbert RJ, Dave R, Sunder Chakraborty S, Kumar S, Prakash S, Ranade SP, Prakash V. (2011).
Effectiveness of Action in India to Reduce Exposure of Gyps Vultures to the Toxic Veterinary Drug Diclofenac
Cuthbert R, Taggart MA, Prakash V, Saini M, Swarup D, et al. (2011)
Vultures in the press and Blogs
April 2015: Link to RSPB Community Blog about saving Asian vultures
July 2014: New article in German newspaper Badische Zeitung (5th August 2014) which explains the plight of Vultures in India and the conservation work to arrest the decline. Read more here.
Other press articles:
The News Today - Bangladesh. July 2014. Anthrax, rabies to be epidemic with extinction of vulture.
EKantipur.com - Nepal. July 2014. The Vulture Song
Aljazeera. 30th April 2014
Vulture comeback? Once almost extinct, vultures are making a comeback, thanks to pioneering strategies in South Asian states. Click HERE
BCN vulture work recognised (in Terre Sauvage). Click HERE
Times of India: 17th February 2014
Killer drug ban stems fall in vulture numbers
BBC News: Project targets 2016 for Asian vultures release
The Times of India, Ahmedabad - Aug 2013
Two vultures found dead at IIM-A
The Hindu - July 2013
Shun diclofenac to save vultures
The Daily Star - 29th September 2012
Where have the Vultures gone?
Sourav Mahmud - Bangladesh
The Times of India - 23rd August 2012
More painkillers pose threat to vultures
Hindustan Times, 23rd August 2012
Aceclofenac: The new drug dangerous to vultures
Pioneer, Delhi/Lucknow, 23rd August 2012
Aceclofenac is the newest vulture killer drug in town
Sakaal, 23rd August 2012
Punyanagari, Aceclofenac. August 2012
The Daily Pioneer: Not releasing since vultures need safe environment. Aug 2012
The Pioneer Aug 2012. White rumped vulture sighting in Hamirpur Forest Division in Himachal, a harbinger of hope.
The Hindu: Vultures boost at National Board of Wildlife, India. July 2012
Note that releases are not planned before 2016 in contrast to what is stated here
Mahuva shows the way for vulture conservation. June 2012
The Pioneer: Terai gives new wings to vultures - June 2012
The Pioneer: Workshop aimed at discontinued use of diclofenac - May 2012
Nepali times: The vultures are circling again - May 2012
The Hindu: Save the scavengers - May 2012
The Daily Pioneer: SAVE for law to keep vulture killer at bay - March 2012
Bangladeshi Daily Star: Where have all our vultures gone? - March 2012
Rare slender-billed vulture sighted in Terai - Feb 2012
BNHS pitches in to save diminishing vulture population. India Express 20th February 2012
Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction�? Consortium Launched
World first for Vultures facing extinction
Press release issued on behalf of a partnership involving:
BirdLife International, Bombay Natural History Society, RSPB, UK International Centre for Birds of Prey (ICBP), and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
Follow the link here to see more online articles and press cuttings from Asia and worldwide on the Asian vulture conservation crisis
Follow this link for earlier news of significant mile-stones in the progress towards saving Asia's vultures
Links to archived news: