Vultures are important. By being nature’s clean-up crew they are an integral part of nature. Thanks to their carrion diet, they prevent the spread of diseases produced by decaying carcasses. Vultures also help cattle ranchers, not only because they clean up the fields, but also because they eliminate the need for the treatment and incineration of thousands of tons of animal remains every year.
Thanks to this free cleaning service, millions of euros are saved in waste management and the potential emission of hundreds of thousands of tons of CO2 per year is avoided, for the benefit of all.
However, vultures are disappearing.
Over the past 30 years, the number of vultures in West Africa has fallen by 95% outside protected areas. 75% of all vultures are spiralling towards extinction. 16 of the 23 vulture species living on our planet are threatened.
In the 1990s, 99% of the Indian subcontinent’s vultures were wiped out. The presence of diclofenac, a veterinary drug, in just 1% of livestock carcasses abandoned in fields was enough to virtually eliminate vulture populations on the Indian subcontinent. Since the drug was banned, vulture populations in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Iran began to recover, but they are still nowhere near what they once were.
Most of the EU’s vultures -over 80%- are found in Spain, but Portugal and Italy also have significant populations. In a world where vultures are threatened, the governments of Spain, Italy and Portugal, along with the EU, have a renewed responsibility to ensure the health of Europe’s vulture populations. They are currently failing in this task: Europe’s vultures are being menaced by the toxic threat of diclofenac that, though safe for humans and livestock, is deadly for raptors.
There are comparably priced alternatives to diclofenac that are safe for vultures. Banning this dangerous veterinary drug in the EU is a matter of common sense and political will. Ban Vet Diclofenac is an initiative by SEO/BirdLife, SPEA, VCF, WWF Spain and BirdLife Europe and Central Asia to ban veterinary diclofenac, a drug that could potentially wipe out vultures in Europe.
You can help save Europe’s vultures, by signing your name to the campaign website.