Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus)

A critically endangered species, and unsurprisingly the only one of the species I encountered during my time in Botswana.

Last night’s kill by wild dogs has attracted this individual and other species of vulture and scavengers, and this hooded vulture was the only one of its kind. Decades ago it would have been alongside many others here.

I encountered very few of any species of vulture, and sadly this is all due to human activities like trophy hunting and religious excuses, poisoning of carcasses, habitat loss and collision with human infrastructures like wind farms and power lines.

Diclofenac, a widely used painkiller and anti-inflammatory agent for human consumption is deadly to vultures, and if they eat a carcass/bait with minute amounts of diclofenac it will cause kidney failure. Diclofenac is also used by vets and as such a dead pet or farm animal with traces of diclofenac will kill the vultures.

It was first recognized in India, as their tens of millions of vultures were suddenly reduced by 99% (!) in a short amount of time. It resulted in an unprecedented response from the Indian government to ban diclofenac in 2006. Yet their vulture populations are still critically endangered – more than 15 years since the ban of diclofenac – as is the case of the rest of South Asia!

But as with DDT, which long ago was banned due to its toxicity, is still widely used in developing countries, many countries continue to use diclofenac in farm animals and pets. Thus the vultures are still threatened by this chemical. And this is but the most toxic to them. Humanity is offering a cocktail of chemicals to the environment, many of which break down over centuries and thus are accumulating as the years go by as we continue to use them.

If that wasn’t enough, the manufacturers are using similar tactics like those of the tobacco industry to promote diclofenac and other products, and the EU and other countries have been convinced by their rhetoric and have approved for veterinary use. There is a safe alternative called meloxicam – yet regulators accept the arguments from pharma-lobbyists that claim India and South Asia are basically on a different planet than the EU and as such the vultures are safe in Europe (!) It’s simply as depressive as it gets – nature doesn’t stand a chance!

More info:
Disappearing vultures | The Himalayan Times 29 April 2021
Rare European vultures being poisoned by livestock drug | The Guardian – 21 April 2021
Rare European vultures being killed by anti-inflammatory livestock drug | The Independent 13 April 2021

Wikipedia: Diclofenac
Wikipedia: Hooded vulture
Wikipedia: Indian vulture crisis

It sounds like this:

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