The project aims to identify safe alternatives to diclofenac and introduce these into the veterinary marketplace. This work has involved a survey of the clinical use of NSAIDs in vultures and other scavenging birds and is involving safety testing of alternative NSAIDs on vultures in Southern Africa and India. Detail of the work involved in determining the safety of the NSAID meloxicam is available at this page. Further testing work has recently looked at the safety of the drug ketoprofen and issues regarding formulations of meloxicam made within Asia. Updates on these will follow shortly
As part of the vulture work, the RSPB has worked closely with the Bombay Natural History Society, the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, the University of Aberdeen and the Instituto de Investigacion en Recursos Cinegeticos, Spain, in order to quantify levels of diclofenac in cattle carcasses available to vultures in India. Additionally, visits and surveys of pharmaceutical shops have been across Nepal and India to investigate the availability of different veterinary drugs.
Vulture surveys and monitoring in India and Nepal
As part of the vulture work, the RSPB has funded Bird Conservation Nepal and the Bombay Nature History Society to monitor colonies and conduct surveys of vultures. This will enable population trends to be monitored for resident vultures and to ensure breeding colonies are protected through working with local communities. Surveys of vultures are also conducted by driving road transects across large areas of India and lowland Nepal, these surveys have been crucial in determining the international scale of the declines and the speed of the declines (see Prakash et al 2007)
The “Resources” link on the left takes you to a list of downloadable papers that have been published by scientists connected with Vulture Rescue and other researchers working on vulture conservation.
Research has underpinned the vulture conservation programme from the very beginning that declines were first reported at Keoladia National Park, India. Surveys and monitoring established that trends were occurring over a national and international scale, and triggered a four-year investigation in to the cause of the declines. Research has now clearly established that diclofenac is the principal cause of the population declines. Research also identified the safe alternative drug meloxicam that could be promoted as a replacement for diclofenac. Science and research published in peer-reviewed journals continue to be an important part of the vulture programme, with a varied range of projects aimed at monitoring populations, understanding the behaviour of birds, furthering research on the toxicity of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and documenting the health status of vultures and lessons to be learned from the breeding programme.
Follow the links below for more information on the four main research areas.
1. Population monitoring (road transects, colony monitoring)
2. Veterinary drugs (toxicity and safety)
3. Diclofenac monitoring (carcass sampling, pharmacy sampling)
4. Satellite tracking
More detail and links on this work will be provided shortly, however these work areas are briefly summarised below.