South Asian Vultures – Near Extinction

ambience: vultures

When cattle die in South Asia, it’s usually vultures that dispose of the carcasses. These birds perform a crucial role in their local ecosystem. But for the past ten years, the vultures themselves have been mysteriously dying – and until recently, no one knew why. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

“Prior to the 1990s, there would have been millions of these vultures. In fact in cities like New Delhi and Bombay they were considered pests. A parallel might be – as common as the pigeons in New York.”

Rick Watson is International Programs Director of the Peregrine Fund.

“By the end of the 1990’s the situation was really quite catastrophic, with declines recorded of greater than 90% in the populations.”

The vultures were dying of kidney failure but scientists couldn’t find the cause.

“We investigated the most likely known causes of kidney failure in birds first, to include infectious disease, both viral and bacterial. We investigated the possibility of heavy metal contamination, poisoning and also nutritional deficiency. None of these turned out to be responsible. At that time, we began asking veterinarians and veterinary supply companies in Pakistan to just the list the kinds of drugs and chemicals that are used on livestock and from that survey identified one particular drug, dyclovinac, as being a possible candidate. Dyclovinac is an anti-inflammatory drug that’s been used in human use for many years and is considered very safe. However, it is known to cause kidney failure in mammals and therefore was a possibility as a cause of kidney failure in birds

Further investigation proved that the drug dyclovinac was about to bring three species of vultures to the point of extinction. Working with the governments of India, Nepal and Pakistan, scientists have recommended curbing the veterinary use of the drug in south Asia, and restoring the vulture population through captive breeding.

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation.

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South Asian Vultures - Near Extinction

Over the past ten years, the vultures of India, Nepal and Pakistan have been disappearing. Until recently, no one knew why.
Air Date:12/08/2006
Scientist:
Transcript:


ambience: vultures

When cattle die in South Asia, it’s usually vultures that dispose of the carcasses. These birds perform a crucial role in their local ecosystem. But for the past ten years, the vultures themselves have been mysteriously dying - and until recently, no one knew why. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

“Prior to the 1990s, there would have been millions of these vultures. In fact in cities like New Delhi and Bombay they were considered pests. A parallel might be - as common as the pigeons in New York.”

Rick Watson is International Programs Director of the Peregrine Fund.

“By the end of the 1990's the situation was really quite catastrophic, with declines recorded of greater than 90% in the populations.”

The vultures were dying of kidney failure but scientists couldn’t find the cause.

“We investigated the most likely known causes of kidney failure in birds first, to include infectious disease, both viral and bacterial. We investigated the possibility of heavy metal contamination, poisoning and also nutritional deficiency. None of these turned out to be responsible. At that time, we began asking veterinarians and veterinary supply companies in Pakistan to just the list the kinds of drugs and chemicals that are used on livestock and from that survey identified one particular drug, dyclovinac, as being a possible candidate. Dyclovinac is an anti-inflammatory drug that's been used in human use for many years and is considered very safe. However, it is known to cause kidney failure in mammals and therefore was a possibility as a cause of kidney failure in birds

Further investigation proved that the drug dyclovinac was about to bring three species of vultures to the point of extinction. Working with the governments of India, Nepal and Pakistan, scientists have recommended curbing the veterinary use of the drug in south Asia, and restoring the vulture population through captive breeding.

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation.

music