A+ A-

New study on vulture-killing drug raises serious concerns


Problem

For over a decade it has been known that some drugs are toxic to vultures and that they are exposed to these drugs by consuming contaminated carcasses. Yet no safety-testing measures are mandated for such drugs before they can be approved, nor is there a clear legislative mechanism to ban drugs that are found to be toxic. This is true for South Asian nations as well as the European Union. The biggest concern is that nowhere in the world are pharmaceutical drugs tested for safety also in the wildlife that will be exposed to them. This is true of drugs intended for both human
and animal use.

Solution

In 2006 Prof Vinny Naidoo, Deputy Dean: Research and Postgraduate Studies in the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria, and his team, started research on protecting vultures from the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) diclofenac in cattle, which was responsible for high mortality rates in vulture populations.

It was found that this veterinary drug was the principal cause for the virtual disappearance of formerly abundant Gyps vultures from most parts of the Indian subcontinent. Vultures die from kidney failure when they feed on the carcass of an animal given the drug shortly before death. 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.

Following the team’s initial research, veterinary use of diclofenac was banned in India, Nepal and Pakistan in 2006 (and Bangladesh in 2010) in order to protect vultures.

Progress

Several other NSAIDs of unknown toxicity to vultures are now sold legally instead of disclofenac. A recent study by Prof Naidoo’s team in collaboration with partners of SAVE (Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction) shows that cattle rapidly metabolise one of these drugs, aceclofenac, into vulture-killing diclofenac.

Although aceclofenac is not yet as popular as diclofenac once was, the Government of India’s ban on veterinary diclofenac may result in increases in aceclofenac use, particularly if pharmaceutical companies continue to promote it as a legal and harmless substitute for diclofenac.

Today, vulture populations have stopped declining after a decrease in illegal diclofenac use, but these magnificent birds may now be pushed over the brink by an increase in legal aceclofenac use.

According to Prof Naidoo, it is time for the governments of South Asia to, like with diclofenac take equally strong and swift action against aceclofenac in order to save their vultures.


Image Gallery

Privacy Policy

The University is firmly committed to protecting the privacy of users of the website. No personal information about users of this website will be disclosed to a third party without the prior consent thereto by the user. (Personal information shall at all times be dealt with in accordance with the provisions of the Protection of Personal Information Act, 2013 (Act 4 of 2013).)

The University reserves the right to automatically collect information on users' usage of the website (for example, via cookies) in order to improve users' browsing and interaction with the University and for non-personal statistical purposes.

Changes to this privacy policy

The University reserves the right to change, amend, or update this privacy policy periodically.

Modifications to the website

The University reserves the right to modify, change, amend or discontinue the website (or any part thereof) temporarily or permanently, without prior notice.

Links

The University may provide links to other websites or resources. This does not imply the University's endorsement of such sites. The University does not have any control over these websites and will, therefore, not be liable for any damages whatsoever arising from the utilisation of these websites by users.

The University does not prohibit third-party sites to link to publicly visible content on this website. However, it is expressly prohibited for any third party to frame any page on this website in any way whatsoever without the prior written approval of the University.

University of Pretoria proprietary rights

The copyright and other intellectual property rights (which include the University’s brand and logo), which are owned by or licensed to the University, existing in and attaching to this website, are the property of the University. These include but are not limited to text, content, design, layout, graphics, organisation, digital conversion and other information related to the website.

Users are granted a non-exclusive, non-transferable, revocable licence to:

  • access and use this website strictly in accordance with these terms;
  • use this website solely for personal, non-commercial purposes; and
  • download or print out or distribute content from the website, or any part thereof, solely for personal, non-commercial purposes, provided that all copyright and other intellectual property notices therein are unchanged.

Any reproduction of the content of this website, or a portion thereof, must include the following copyright notice: ©University of Pretoria. Users who wish to use the content from this website for commercial purposes may only do so with prior written permission from the University.

Disclaimer

This website is for information purposes only. No representations or warranties are given by the University of Pretoria (hereafter referred to as the University) regarding the accuracy of the information this website contains, any material this website provides for or any part of this website. Any reliance by the user on any information this website contains, any material this website provides for or any part of this website, is at the user’s own risk and the University shall not be liable in any way whatsoever in respect of the user or any other person, directly or indirectly, arising from the utilisation of the information this website contains, any material this website provides for or any part of this website.

The user hereby agrees that in the event of any dispute arising from the utilisation of this website in any manner, form or substance whatsoever, the relevant South African law will apply and the appropriate courts of South Africa will have jurisdiction.

Terms & Conditions

By accessing this website, the user hereby agrees to the following:

The use of this website is at the user’s sole risk. This website is provided on an "as is" and "as available" basis. The University gives no warranty that (i) the information posted on this website will meet the user’s requirements; (ii) the information posted on this website will be uninterrupted, timely, secure, virus free or error free; and (iii) the information posted on this website will be accurate or reliable.

Any material downloaded from or otherwise obtained through this website is utilised at the user’s own risk, and the user will, therefore, be liable for any and all damages of any nature whatsoever arising from such utilisation of the website.

Limitation of liability

The user expressly understands and agrees that the University shall not be liable for any damages (subject to the provisions of Chapter 2 of the Consumer Protection Act, 2008 (Act 68 of 2008) (even if the University has been advised of the possibility of such damages) resulting from: (i) the use or the inability to use the website; (ii) the cost of procurement of substitute goods and services resulting from any data, information or services obtained or messages received or transactions entered into through the website; (iii) unauthorised access to or alteration of the user’s transmissions or data; (iv) statements or conduct of any third party on the website; or (v) any other matter relating to the website.