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NSAIDs And Scavenging Birds: Potential Impacts Beyond Asia's Critically Endangered Vultures

Richard Cuthbert, Jemima Parry-Jones, Rhys E Green, Deborah J Pain

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Veterinary treatment of livestock with diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), has caused catastrophic declines of Gyps vultures in Asia. This has highlighted a lack of knowledge on the potential impacts of NSAIDs on scavenging birds. Surveys of veterinarians and zoos document the outcomes of the treatment of over 870 scavenging birds from 79 species. As well as diclofenac, carprofen and flunixin were associated with mortality, with deaths observed in 13 and 30% of cases, respectively. Mortality was also found following treatment with ibuprofen and phenylbutazone. NSAID toxicity was reported for raptors, storks, cranes and owls, suggesting that the potential conservation impact of NSAIDs may extend beyond Gyps vultures and could be significant for New World vultures. In contrast, there were no reported mortalities for the NSAID meloxicam, which was administered to over 700 birds from 60 species. The relative safety of meloxicam supports other studies indicating the suitability of this NSAID to replace diclofenac in Asia.