Magazine article Science News

Birds Beware: Several Veterinary Drugs May Kill Scavengers

Magazine article Science News

Birds Beware: Several Veterinary Drugs May Kill Scavengers

Article excerpt

Scavenging birds worldwide could be at risk of accidental poisoning from carcasses of livestock that farmers had dosed with certain anti-inflammatory drugs, according to a survey of veterinarian records.

The work grows out of discoveries in the past 2 years that several Gyps vulture species have almost vanished from India and Pakistan because residues of the anti-inflammatory drug dielofenac in dead farm animals ruin the kidneys of the scavenger birds (SN: 2/4/06, p. 70).

To estimate sensitivities to diclofenac and related drugs, researchers combed veterinary records around the globe for unexpected deaths of captive birds treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Suspicious deaths turned up in 11 species, including 7 not closely related to the Asian vultures, says Richard Cuthbert of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Sandy, England.

The study associated diclofenac with more than two dozen bird deaths and carprofen and flunixin with several deaths each, Cuthbert and his colleagues report in an analysis now online for Biology Letters.

Because birds scavenge dead farm animals, "any NSMD that is used without testing [on birds] is a real cause of concern," Cuthbert says.

The survey team collected records of NSMD treatment for nearly 900 birds in 79 species, mostly scavengers. The researchers looked for fatalities in cases such as minor surgery, where "the bird shouldn't have died," says Cuthbert.

Out of 40 birds treated with carprofen, 5 died, as did 7 out of 24, treated with flunixin. …

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