Monday, August 22, 2011

Vultures rapidly heading towards extinction - and how that will affect us

The population of vultures in India is down in only 15 years from 50 million to 60,000. Imagine, our children and future generations yet to be born may never see a vulture!  
The cause?  
Feeding Diclofenac as a pain-killer (like Ibuprofen) to livestock for cracked hooves and swollen udders. Diclofenac ingested from carcasses causes untreatable fatal kidney failure in vultures. In spite of its being banned, this is still being used and prescribed by several vets and quacks.
The effects? 
  • Cows cannot be killed in India; now their carcasses will have to be handled and disposed by humans. This will become a public health problem.
  • Parsis will have to worry about how to manage disposal of their dead in absence of vultures, when there is no alternative solution in their scriptures.  
  • Vultures can ingest without any problem foot-and-mouth, brucellosis, tuberculosis and anthrax-ridden carcasses. Now these will have to be handled by humans. This too could become a public health problem. 
  • Population of aggressive scavenging dogs has gone up in several cities, among them Bangalore. That is nature's way of filling up the vacuum left by vultures. Whether we humans like it or not. So now we have to control the dog menace. This has already become a public menace.
  • Here, nature is helping us, by the spreading incidence of dermatitis (shows up as loss of fur on the skin) in almost 40% of these stray dogs, that eventually kills them. 
  • But dogs aren't interested in dead Parsis. Besides, now that Diclofenac is present in several human formulations as well, who knows which Parsi's remains will end up killing a few more of the remaining venerated vultures?     
This is an eco-catastrophe in the making (indeed one that has reached an advanced stage before effective diagnosis or action). Should we shed a tear for these descendants of Jatayu who once valiantly at the cost of his own life,  tried to prevent Sita's abduction by Ravana?

Read this article for more detailed exposition.

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