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  • Vultures

    What's been happening to vulture populations over the past few years has been an object lesson.

    Recently, there's been the good news that vulture populations in India have been recovering. It had got to the point where over 90% of Indian vultures had died:

    The birds declined largely because ranchers started giving their cattle an anti-inflammatory drug called diclofenac that the birds ingested when they ate the dead cattle ...
    Decline of Endangered Vultures in India Slows, Showing Some Hope | LiveScience

    Previously, it's been the effect of antibiotics on the birds that has been in the news. See, for example:

    Eating carcasses of livestock treated with antibiotics is wreaking havoc on the health of Spanish vultures, a new study carried out in Spain suggests. The researchers say that the practice of feeding vultures livestock carrion--although promoted by bird lovers--may actually threaten the species ...
    Advice to Vultures: Avoid Spanish Livestock | Science/AAAS | News

    Here's the key snippet:

    ... Jesüs Lemus and Guillermo Blanco of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid have long worried that antibiotics, used widely in livestock farming to fight infections and promote growth ...
    Now there's an appropriate (but not uncommon) use of antibiotics <<raises eyebrows>>

    ... might accumulate in vultures. In a study published last year, they showed that eating carrion from farms led to high levels of quinolones, a group of persistent antibiotics, in vultures' blood and that these were associated with higher risk of bacterial and fungal disease. Several studies in people and animals have hinted that overuse of antibiotics can suppress the immune system, and the researchers hypothesized that this happens in vultures as well.
    Plenty of papers on that phenomenon around, too.

    More extensive digging around online reveals that this isn't the extent of the creatures' woes, however. It turns out the birds frequently eat carcases that have been deliberately poisoned in an attempt by farmers to impact wolf populations. Then there are heavy metals:

    In the last few years over 70 active substances were found in poisoned baits or animals, many of which are legal (phitosanitary products, biocides, etc.). Often the pesticides and herbicides used in agriculture are the substance used in the baits – the insecticides aldicarb & carbofuranbeing some of the most frequently used ...

    Contaminants include antibiotics, non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, lead and other heavy metals [also cause problems].

    Anti-poisoning - Website of the Vulture Conservation Foundation

    What a way to treat the Earth and its creatures!

    This is also, in some respects, how we are treating ourselves, of course.

  • #2
    I don't know whether to be angry or sad...I'll settle for both. It's a visceral pleasure to watch a vulture hanging in the air and I really hope my kids get to enjoy it too. ICBP in the UK is well worth a visit to learn more about this stuff.
    Man seeks to change the foods available in nature to suit his tastes, thereby putting an end to the very essence of life contained in them.


    • #3
      Nah, they're not dead. They just flew to St. Mary's. Do they want them back?