A Blog devoted to progressive politics, environmental issues, LGBT issues, social justice, workers' rights, womens' rights, and, most importantly, Cats.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Environment: Save The ... Vultures?

Yeah, vultures. They're invaluable in the food chain, removing carcasses that might otherwise rot and render their surroundings uninhabitable. And thanks to a painkilling drug for cattle, vulture populations in South Asia have plummeted from 300,000 in Nepal a decade ago to approximately 1,000 today. That's a 95 per cent drop in the population. Ecologically unsound, because the rate of change does not allow for adequate time to develop an alternative solution.

From Raw Story comes an interesting article about how Nepalis are coping with the problem of saving the endangered vultures.
"Studies have found that vultures feeding on carcasses treated with Diclofenac died of kidney failure within 24 hours," said Hem Sagar Baral, a Nepali ornithologist with Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN) who came up with the idea of a "restaurant" where the birds could eat uncontaminated carrion.


Similar schemes have already been run successfully in South Africa and Europe, but the Nepali project is unique as it is being driven by the local community rather than by professional conservationists.
And in a heartwarming twist, the organization is buying sick cattle, treating them and letting them die of natural causes, then feeding their diclofenac-free carcasses to the vultures. They're also providing safe alternatives for diclofenac to local farmers, and have succeeded in persuading the government to ban diclofenac.

I wonder why the companies that manufacture and sell (at a good profit, no doubt) veterinary drugs don't test for possible harm to the environment? No incentive, perhaps? It's time to start imposing heavy penalties on companies that fail to test for potential damage.

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