Back in 2008 on the Iberia Nature forum we started a topic about the use of Diclofenac in Asia and, as the drug was about to be used in Europe, it stayed in the Spain sections rather than going in the “other places” boards… And it seems with good reason. If you fancy trawling through the wealth of information about this subject then the main topic is here.
Apart from this amazing topic on the forum pretty much everything you need to know now about this disgusting drug proven to kill vultures in their millions can be found over at the Vulture foundation…. Loads of papers and up to date news…
As the deadline for a final decision by the EU Commission on banning veterinary diclofenac approaches, vultures really need you.
Veterinary diclofenac is extremely toxic to vultures, and has been banned from the Indian subcontinent after causing a 95-99% decline of several vulture species there. Incredibly, it has been approved for use on livestock in Italy and Spain.
The Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) has been leading a campaign, together with other organisations, to ban this drug in Europe too: given the existence of a non-toxic alternative (Meloxicam), common sense suggests a precautionary approach should be taken.
We had therefore asked the EU Commission to start a procedure for the withdrawal of an authorized veterinary medicinal drug which affects Community interests, Under Article 35 of Veterinary Medicines Directive (2001/82/EC). You can see more details about veterinary diclofenac, its impacts, and the whole campaign, here
With the latest news coming from Zamora that includes a Spanish Imperial eagle, amongst other carrion birds, killed from the consequences of poisoning, I thought I’d have a search around the net for similar news and information.
The Vulture Conservation Council has an interesting page explaining the use of poisons that has affected Spanish Vultures.
A large number of vulture deaths in Europe can be attributed every year to poisoning, arguably the most important threat impacting on vultures today. Figures from Spain are illustrative – data from the Spanish ministry of agriculture show that between the years 2000 and 2010 a total of 40 bearded vultures, 638 black vultures, 348 Egyptian vultures and 2,146 griffon vultures were found poisoned. (The recent extinction of the bearded vulture in the Balkan Peninsula was largely due to extensive poisoning campaigns against wolves and jackals.) Read the rest of this entry
Unbelievably, this news comes as a surprise to many vets, biologists and very experienced people working in the world of Spanish wildlife. Diclofenac is a powerful anti-inflammatory drug that has wiped out vulture populations in India, Pakistan and Nepal. Now, a repeat of this ecological disaster is threatening Europe. Despite the fact that safe alternative drugs are readily available, Diclofenac has been authorised for use on domestic animals in Italy, and in Spain where 80% of European vultures live, and is now becoming widely available on the EU market. According to experts in SEO/BirdLife (BirdLife in Spain), RSPB (BirdLife UK) and the Vulture Conservation Foundation, this may cause a European mass die off of endangered and ecologically valuable wildlife….
Vultures in Catalonia are being increasingly spotted on the roads in search of roadkill, because of the paucity of their traditional sources of dead livestock: The EU prohibuts abandoning animal cacrasses because of mad cow’s disease. The above photo from La Vanguardia is along the N-230 between Lleida and Val d’Aran.
Nice, short video of a lammergeyer (bearded vulture – Gypaetus barbatus) swallowing a bone. The images were recorded in Tremp, in the Pyrenees at “La Terret” observatory. Sent to me by recercaenaccio.cat.
Fascinating article in BMC Evolutionary Biologyon the role of humans in helping the expansion of the Egyptian Vulture (Alimoche in Spanish, guirre in the Canaries) and its remarkably fast evolution into a sub-species (Neophron percnopterus majorensis).
Archaeological remains show that first colonizers were Berber people from northern Africa who imported goats. This new and abundant food source could have allowed vultures to colonize, expand and adapt to the island environment. Our results suggest that anthropogenic environmental change can induce diversification and that this process may take place on an ecological time scale (less than 200 generations), even in the case of a long-lived species. Full article here
N. p. majorensis, the Canarian Egyptian Vulture, the largest subspecies with by far the smallest and most restricted population, is found only in the eastern Canary Islands where they are known by the name of guirre. Described as a new subspecies only in 2002, studies suggest that it is more genetically distant from N. p. percnopterus than N. p. ginginianus is. Unlike neighbouring populations in Africa and southern Europe, they are not migratory and are consistently larger in size. The name majorensis is derived from “Majorata”, the ancient name for the island of Fuerteventura. The island was named by Spanish conquerors in the 15th century after the “Majos”, the main native Guanche tribe there. A study suggests that the species colonized the island around 2500 years ago and the establishment of the population may have been aided by human colonization.
The population in the Canary Islands have been isolated from populations in Europe and Africa for a significant period of time and have declined greatly and are of particular concern due to their genetic distinctiveness. The Canarian Egyptian Vulture was historically common, occurring on the islands of La Gomera, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. It is now restricted to Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, the two easternmost islands. The total population in 2000 was estimated at about 130 individuals, including 25–30 breeding pairs. The island birds appear to be more susceptible to infections. Island birds appear to accumulate significant amounts of lead from scavenging on hunted animal carcasses and the long-term effect of this poison at a sublethal level is not known although it alters the mineralization of their bones. In order to provide safe and uncontaminated food for nesting birds, attempts have been made to create “vulture restaurants” where carcasses are made available. These interventions however may also encourage opportunist predators and scavengers to concentrate at the site and pose a threat to nesting birds in the vicinity
A new Spanish study has highlighted the role played by vultures in reducing energy consumption in Spain, saving the annual energy use of an estimated 9,000 homes and preventing 193,000 tons of CO2 from being released in the atmosphere. Spanish livestock farmers produces 380,000 tons of carrion, whose incineration involves a high energy cost. An adult vulture consumes some three kilos of meat a week, with all vultures in Spain consuming some 10,000 tonnes a year. Unfortunately the strict EU rules, as a result of mad cow’s disease, force many farmers to incinerate dead animals in official centres at a high cost to both them and in terms of CO2 production. I’d be interested in knowing how much CO2 the vultures would save if and when the EU rules are eventually relaxed.
March 23rd, 2010
SEO has named the black vulture (Aegypius monachus), as its bird of the year for 2010. Unlike previous spceies the black or monk vulture is not endangered, although it is certainly threatened. Rather it has been selected to highlight the fragile balance of this flagship species in sites such as Monfrague (Cáceres) and Peñalara (Madrid). There are some 2,000 breeding pairs of the species in Spain, up from just 200 in the 1960s. This said, the blight of poison is still responsible for many deaths. Crónica Verde
The genus name Aegypius is a Greek word for ‘vulture’, or a bird not unlike one; Aelian describes the aegypius as “halfway between a vulture (gyps) and an eagle”. Some authorities think this a good description of a lammergeier; others do not. Aegypius is the eponym of the species, whatever it was. The English name ‘Black Vulture’ refers to the plumage colour, while ‘Monk Vulture’, a direct translation of its German name Mönchsgeier, refers to the bald head and ruff of neck feathers like a monk’s cowl. More from Wikipedia
December 10th, 2009
The Guardian reports here on a study by scientists that vultures should be allowed to return to their old jobs as nature’s waste managers. They say the birds are suffering as they increasingly depend on being fed by people. The law was changed in 2002 because of mad cow disease and outlawed the leaving of carcasses of dead cows, as well as sheep, goats and other livestock, in the open.
The upcoming decision by the EU on whether to change the law affecting dead livestock will have important repercusions for Spanish wildlife. The Spanish government has called on the European Union to alter the rules on the animal corpses and allow farmers to leave them where they fall.
Interesting article here from birdguide.com about Vulture feeding stations in the Sierra de Guara.
“The authorities have set up a number of feeding stations where carcases are provided especially for vultures. As a result, numbers of vultures, particularly Griffons, have increased rather than declined and birders are provided with wonderful viewing opportunities. In addition to substantial numbers of Griffon Vultures, it is possible to see Lammergeiers and, in summer, Egyptian Vultures at these sites….The biggest and most spectacular feeding site is at Alquezar.”
It’s a worldwide phenomenon – whether bears investigating trash cans in the US, coyotes roaming New York, or boars exploring Barcelona – wildlife and human territories are increasingly overlapping. Near Vallvidrera railway station, on the outskirts of Barcelona, a mother boar availed herself of the contents of a litter bin in broad daylight. While two […]