Last week the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) announced in a press release that member Countries who are Signatories to the MOU on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey, listed more species of vultures to their annexure 1.

The agreement which was discussed in Bonn has been motivated by the African vulture crisis. Apart from illegal trade in the birds, poisoning is of very high concern. The current number of signatories involves 533 countries.

This is heartening news, but it raises the question of what they are doing to address the threat to vultures and other birds of prey in Europe.

How long it is going to take the European Commission, Italy and Spain to get around to addressing the problem of the mass killing of vultures through the use of diclofenac in veterinary products in those countries?

India banned the use of diclofenac  in 2006, following an explosive decline of vulture species across India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

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The catastrophic effect of the anti-inflammatory medication on vultures which ate the flesh of dead livestock crashed the population by over 90%.

It is taking some time, but there are reports that the populations of Indian vultures are now stabilizing. This has been largely due to the fact that an alternative medication which is not toxic to the vultures is available and in use in India.

The crisis that affected Asian vultures was well publicized, so there was an outcry in 2013 when Spain authorized the sale of diclofenac for veterinary use. Italy also allows the sale of the anti-inflammatory product and exports to several other European countries. Spain is of particular concern as up to 90% of Europe’s vultures are found in Spain.  

The Society for Conservation Biology, (SCB) along with many other concerned organizations have been lobbying since 2013 for the EU to push for a ban on the product.

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In November 2014, Birdlife International announced that the EU was finally considering a ban on the drug. They said that the European Commission had requested an opinion from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) about the risks of the medication to vulture populations. The EMA’s report which everyone was waiting for has still not made any discernible difference. A year later and the status quo has not visibly altered.

On International Vultures day last month, The Vulture Conservation Fund again raised the concern that the European countries were not taking the threat to vultures seriously. They voiced an opinion that if nothing is done, the 2015 International Vulture Day might be the last to see these birds in Europe.

The EMA has confirmed the threat to vultures and other species of raptors by the use of this medication. Seeing all EU member states adopted guidelines in a vital treaty through The Convention of Migratory Species in 2014 to prevent risk of poisoning to migratory birds, it is appalling there has not yet been a ban in the use of this drug throughout Europe.

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Countries outside of Europe such as Iran have taken the step to ban the product. It time for Europe to stop talking and push the ban through before it is too late.

 

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