Vultures were once incredibly numerous - in the 1980s the Oriental white backed vulture was the most numerous bird of prey in the world. Vultures are not pretty birds but they are vital to the ecosystem as they eat dead animals and prevent the spread of disease.
Sadly though many species of vultures are struggling these days. Particularly in Asia where a veterinary drug diclofenac that is found in animal carcases that the vultures feed on then poisons the birds. Four species of Asian vultures are now classified as critically endangered and have declined 99.9% in the past 15 years.
In 2006, the Indian and Nepalese Governments stopped domestic manufacture of veterinary diclofenac. In August 2008, the Drug Controller General of India made sale and use of the drug illegal. To prevent vets using human diclofenac for livestock all stocks of the drug are now labelled as 'not for veterinary use'.
The RSPB and Bombay Natural History Society along with other conservation groups are working on captive breeding programmes for the affected species. In July 2010 all these species bred and successfully fledged young in captivity.
Vulture Safe Zones have also been introduced in two parts of Nepal. These are areas that are guaranteed free of diclofenac and where vultures are fed safely. Vulture populations have been doing well in these areas in recent years.A safe alternative drug has been found and is being used in Asia and in Africa.
More information at: http://www.rspb.org.uk/international/vultures/index.asp
This is just one example of how agricultural chemicals can damage wildlife and the wider ecosystem. Organic farming does not use such chemicals and works with nature and so preserves wildlife.