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Issue 47
, 2014
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Project targets 2016 for Asian vultures release

Source: BBC News, Date: , 2014

After the devastation wrought by a drug on Asian vulture populations, a project hopes to begin releasing captive-bred birds into the wild by 2016.

 The Saving Asia's Vultures from Extinction (Save) programme says it plans to release up to 25 birds into a 30,000-sq-km drug-free "safe zone".

Diclofenac - used by vets on cattle - was identified as causing a crash in vulture numbers and banned by India.But, says Save, the version for human use is still given illegally to cattle.Diclofenac was banned for use by vets and farmers in 2006 because of its effect on vultures that feed on livestock carcasses.

The link between the anti-inflammatory drug, used to reduce swelling in injured or diseased animals, and the devastating demise of Asia's vulture populations was firmly established in 2004.Until the breeding programme, the threatened species of vulture had not been bred in captivity

Tests on captive vultures fed carcass flesh traced with the drug produced symptoms that were strikingly similar to those witnessed in sick birds in the wild.

Experts said vultures feeding on cattle either died from acute kidney failure within a few days or lost their ability to reproduce.Rinkita Gurav from the Bombay Natural History Society - a member of the international Save consortium - said that it was vital to "remove diclofenac from the market completely".

"The veterinary version of the drug was banned in India back in 2006 but the major problem is that the human forms of the drug are being given illegally to cattle," she told BBC News."Because of this, it is not completely out of the system... [and] is readily available in pharmacies and chemists."

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