Asia

Assessing the risk of veterinary NSAIDs to Critically Endangered vultures in Bangladesh

Three vultures stand in tall grass near an animal carcass

Project title: Assessing the risk of veterinary NSAIDs to Critically Endangered vultures in Bangladesh

Location: Bangladesh, particularly two Vulture Safe Zones (VSZs) 

Duration: June 2018 – May 2019

Project background: 

Gyps bengalensis, the white-rumped vulture, was described as the most common bird of prey on Earth in the late1980s, with a population in the tens of millions. This species has almost vanished across its historic range over the last few decades and has found its place on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ as Critically Endangered. The key driver behind this rapid, unprecedented global population collapse has been the ingestion by vultures of dead cattle containing non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) residue, principally diclofenac. Other NSAIDs, like ketoprofen, nimesulide, flunixin and aceclofenac, are now also considered toxic to the white-rumped vulture. Despite extensive bans on veterinary diclofenac now in place across much of South Asia since 2006, and in Bangladesh since 2010, these drugs remain in use, legally or illegally, across the region. Only meloxicam has been identified as a ‘vulture-safe’ NSAID.

To reduce the potential NSAID-related threats to Bangladesh’s last remaining vultures, two Vulture Safe Zones (VSZs) were established in 2014. These VSZs are designed to provide safe feeding areas following concerted efforts to eliminate toxic NSAID use in those areas. Unfortunately, the presence of toxic diclofenac residues need only be present in less than 1% of carcasses for rapid vulture decline to continue. Knowledge regarding NSAID prevalence in carcasses within the VSZs is therefore crucial to ensure vulture conservation. Despite the presence of two designated VSZs in Bangladesh, NSAID residue prevalence and concentrations in these areas are not known. This project, among other activities, aims to begin to address this knowledge gap.

This project is built upon IUCN Bangladesh’s effort to conserve the country’s vulture species since 2014, with support from the Bangladesh Forest Department and The World Bank, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

Objectives of the project: 

This project has two main objectives:

  1. To measure the prevalence and concentrations of NSAID residues in carcasses of animals available to vultures in Bangladesh through comprehensive field surveys and carcass sampling; and
     
  2. To determine the presence and availability of all NSAID compounds currently marketed for veterinary use across Bangladesh through detailed pharmacy and market survey work.

Expected Outputs:

  • Identify which NSAIDs, including diclofenac, ketoprofen and meloxicam, are present in the food available to vultures within and beyond provisional Vulture Safe Zones.
  • Show the prevalence and concentration of these NSAIDs in the food available to vultures within and beyond provisional Vulture Safe Zones.
  • Identify which NSAIDs, including diclofenac, ketoprofen and meloxicam, are being sold to treat livestock within and beyond provisional Vulture Safe Zones.
  • Show the trends in the sale of these NSAIDs within and beyond provisional Vulture Safe Zones.

Donor: The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)

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