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Nepal drug boost for vultures

Diclofenac replacement promoted

Hopes of saving Asia's globally threatened vultures have been given a second boost by a drug company in Nepal.

In May, the Indian government said the livestock treatment diclofenac, which is responsible for the 97 per cent declines of three vulture species in most of Asia, would be banned as a veterinary drug within three months. The vultures die as a result of kidney failure.Now Nepal’s largest veterinary pharmaceutical firm is selling a replacement drug at the same price, prompting the Nepalese authorities to halt the domestic manufacture and import of diclofenac with immediate effect. Until now, diclofenac has been significantly cheaper than the new, safe treatment, meloxicam.

"It is not too late for Nepal’s vultures. The prompt removal of diclofenac and the introduction of meloxicam, along with local conservation initiatives, can bring these essential birds back from the brink of extinction." —Dr Hem Sagar Baral, Chief Executive Officer, BCN

Numbers of the White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis and the Slender-billed Vulture Gyps tenuirostris have plunged by 90 per cent in Nepal in ten years, and by 97 per cent in India and Pakistan. Indian Vulture Gyps indicus has also suffered a similar decline and half of all the remaining vultures are dying every year.The production of meloxicam by Medivet in Nepal, and the Nepalese import and production ban, is a major breakthrough for conservationists hoping to stop veterinary diclofenac use throughout Asia.

Mr Bhupendra Bahadur Thapa, Nepal’s Chief Drug Administrator, commented: "The Department of Drug Administration has now withdrawn the registration of diclofenac for veterinary use, and has informed all of Nepal's veterinary importers and domestic pharmaceutical manufacturers not to import and produce any more diclofenac, with immediate effect."

BirdLife International and its Partners including Bird Conservation Nepal, the Bombay Natural History Society (BirdLife in India) and the RSPB have been working for a number of years to bring an end to Asia's vulture crisis.

4th July 2014