'States should 'enforce' legislation like TN to save vultures'

New Delhi, April 19 (IANS) The first to enforce diclofenac legislation designed to protect vultures from a certain extinction was by Tamil Nadu and other states should take such measures seriously, says a conservation group.
 
'States should 'enforce' legislation like TN to save vultures'

New Delhi, April 19 (IANS) The first to enforce diclofenac legislation designed to protect vultures from a certain extinction was by Tamil Nadu and other states should take such measures seriously, says a conservation group.

Tamil Nadu's Drugs Control office has registered over 100 cases against suppliers, distributors, manufacturers, and retailers of diclofenac, the drug widely used by veterinarians as a painkiller and is the main cause of the dramatic 99 per cent vulture declines across Asia.

"Since the 2006 ban of veterinary diclofenac, and the vial size restriction to 3ml needed for human use, this is the first time we are aware of that those contravening the bans are being prosecuted," says SAVE, Saving Asia's Vultures From Extinction (SAVE), a consortium of 24 partners.

Diclofenac has been used widely. Although it is clear that human formulations have been illegally used on a large scale, this (case registration) is an important step to discourage this irresponsible practice, it says.

"The Tamil Nadu government drug inspectors are, to the best of our knowledge, the first to enforce diclofenac legislation designed to protect vultures with court actions," Chris Bowden, Globally Threatened Species Officer and SAVE Programme Manager, told IANS on Tuesday.

Bowden said Tamil Nadu has once again demonstrated its commitment to vulture conservation by preventing the sale of large vials of diclofenac, making it harder for veterinarians and cattle-owners to use the drug.

"There are safe alternative drugs available, so there is no justification to allow this illegal practice of continued diclofenac use. Meloxicam and tolfenamic acid are cheap and safe options," he said.

The government of India formally restricted diclofenac vial size in 2015 following evidence presented by the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), and this has been largely adhered to across India and has undoubtedly helped reduce the threat that diclofenac poses to the few remaining vultures.

Responding to the action, BNHS Director Bivash Pandav said, "This commendable step by Tamil Nadu needs to be followed by all states across India, and together with national bans of other toxic veterinary drugs like nimesulide and aceclofenac, so that vultures will have a real future as our environmental cleaners."

Population of three of the nine Indian species of vultures -- the white-rumped, the long-billed and the slender-billed -- have crashed by 90 per cent in the mid-1990s. The birds are now listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, the highest threat category ahead of extinction.

To save them from certain extinction, the government of India's Action Plan for Vulture Conservation in India -- 2020-2025, which was presented to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) secretariat, advocates the prevention of misuse of veterinary non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) by ensuring their sale only on prescription.

--IANS

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