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Europe and Central Asia
16 Feb 2015

Who will save the ugly duckling?

Cinereous vulture © Ramon Elosegui
By Communications

You probably know the story about the ugly duckling. This fairy tale tells the story of a young duckling treated like an outcast by its siblings because of its strange appearance. This ugly duckling then grew into a large and majestic bird that everyone admired for its beauty... and we finally discover the secret: it was not an ugly duck but a Swan.

Just this past 16th January, Lush, the fresh handmade cosmetic brand, BirdLife Europe and its Partners in Italy (LIPU) and Spain (SEO/BirdLife) launched a campaign to defend another ‘ugly duckling’: the vulture - the largest bird that flies across European skies. It is currently under threat from Diclofenac, a veterinary anti-inflammatory that is extremely toxic to the species.

Because they are not very pretty or graceful, vultures do not enjoy great popularity. However, vultures play a crucial role in nature and provide a great service to society. These street sweepers remove, clean and recycle the remains of dead animals and by doing so prevent the spread of disease. They also save authorities and farmers a lot of money by avoiding the need for collection, burial, incineration, and disinfection.

Today, European vultures are threatened by the use of Diclofenac, especially Spain and Italy which host the most important populations of the species. The use of this drug on cattle in South-Asia is particularly threatening because it is known to be responsible for 99% decline of the region’s vulture population. Here, affected birds were poisoned after eating the carrion of animals treated with the anti-inflammatory drug.

The campaign “Who will save the ugly duckling?” aims to raise awareness about the truth around vultures and the threats they face. Lush’s stores in Spain and Italy, and the chain’s magazine and e-newsletter, will send the message to its tens of thousands of followers. An online petition was also set up, which calls upon the European Medicines Agency and the European Commission to ban the veterinary use of Diclofenac, easily replaceable with equivalent drugs not harmful to vultures or other large birds of prey.

The petition will be available for only 1 week only so please take a moment and sign now!    

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Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.