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Unlicensed diclofenac still on sale in Tanzania

A recent visitor to the Shoprite Complex veterinary retail shop in Arusha, Tanzania, reports that diclofenac is still on sale there. Diclofenac, which causes kidney failure in vultures, has been responsible for the near-extinction of three Gyps vulture species in India, with a decline of 99.9 percent in the case of Critically Endangered White-rumped Vulture Gyps bengalensis.

The Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania (WCST, BirdLife in Tanzania) has determined that diclofenac is not licensed for veterinary use in Tanzania, contrary to information received last year. However, investigations by NatureKenya (BirdLife in Kenya) have found that there are no restrictions on the distribution and sale of veterinary diclofenac in Kenya. This is the probable source of diclofenac on sale in Arusha.

According to the assistant in the Arusha veterinary shop, up to 25 packets of Ouro Fino diclofenac 50 have been sold so far.WCST and NatureKenya completed studies early in 2008 of the availability, distribution and use of diclofenac in Kenya and Tanzania, in an attempt to establish how much of a threat the drug poses to Africa’s vultures. Their reports are now available.

Dr Chris Magin, International Officer for the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), said "it is frightening that an unlicensed veterinary drug is openly on sale in Tanzania, particularly given the catastrophic effects that diclofenac can have on vulture populations".

Diclofenac is no longer covered by a patent, and many hundreds of companies around the world manufacture it in both branded and generic forms. Ouro Fino, the Brazilian manufacturer of this brand of diclofenac, has been contacted by BirdLife International but has so far not commented on the situation.

What can I do?

BirdLife’s Preventing Extinctions Programme aims to save all 190 Critically Endangered birds, by finding ‘Species Champions’ who will fund the work of identified ‘Species Guardians’ for each bird - organisations and people best placed to carry out the conservation work necessary to prevent an otherwise certain extinction. Become a Species Champion and donate today.

4th July 2014