Populations of three resident Gyps species (Indian white-backed vulture Gyps bengalensis, Indian vulture Gyps indicus, and Slender-billed vulture Gyps tenuirostris) in India have decreased by more than 90% since mid 1990s, and they continue to decline. Experimental studies showed the mortality of vultures to be due to renal failure caused by diclofenac, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. India, Pakistan, and Nepal banned the veterinary usage of diclofenac in 2006 to prevent further decline in vulture population. This study was performed to know the current status of the impact of diclofenac on vultures in India. Between 2011 and 2014, 44 vultures comprising two species, namely Indian white-backed vulture (32) and Himalayan griffon Gyps himalayensis (12) were collected dead from Gujarat, Assam, and Tamil Nadu on an opportunistic basis. Kidney and liver tissues and gut content were analysed for diclofenac. Of the 32 dead white-backed vultures analysed, 68.75% of them had diclofenac ranging from 62.28 to 272.20 ng/g. Fourteen white-backed vultures had diclofenac in kidney in toxic range (70–908 ng/g). Of 12 Himalayan griffon studied, 75% of them had diclofenac in the range of 139.69 to 411.73 ng/g. Himalayan griffon had significantly higher levels of diclofenac in tissues than Indian white-backed vultures. It is possible that 14 of 29 white-backed vultures and 9 of 12 Himalayan griffon included in this study died due to diclofenac poisoning. Studies have indicated that diclofenac can continue to kill vultures even after its ban in India for veterinary use.
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The authors thank the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India for financial support, forest departments of the states of Assam, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu for granting permits to collect vulture samples, Drs. Vibhu Prakash, Parag Deori, and S. P. Ranade, Bombay Natural History Society, Mr. Kartik Shastri, Jivdaya Charitable Trust, Ahmedabad, Messrs S. Bharathidasan, and R. Venkatachalam, Arulagam, Coimbatore for sharing invaluable vulture tissues. The authors thank the Director, SACON for the support, Dr. Raja Jayapal, and Mr. S. Ramesh Kumar for their help with statistics, and Mr. T. Manikandan for his assistance in the laboratory.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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Nambirajan, K., Muralidharan, S., Roy, A.A. et al. Residues of Diclofenac in Tissues of Vultures in India: A Post-ban Scenario. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 74, 292–297 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00244-017-0480-z