Europe and Central Asia
8 Jan 2016

Saving the world’s vultures

A Griffon Vulture. Photo: Carles Carboneras
A Griffon Vulture. Photo: Carles Carboneras
By Ivan Ramirez

Twenty years ago, there were estimated to be over 40 million vultures in India. Veterinary diclofenac - a painkiller given to livestock - poisoned them when the vultures ate livestock carcasses, and now they have been reduced to less than 1% of that population. In West Africa, in just 30 years, vulture numbers have plummeted by 95% outside protected areas. Poisoning is one of the main reasons for their decline as well.

Over the last decades, Europe became a safe place for vultures. Thanks to EU investment and the work of many BirdLife International partners, our vulture populations increased. Then in 2013, we learnt that the use of veterinary diclofenac was being authorised in Italy and Spain. This marked the beginning of our ban vet diclofenac campaign.

Two years into our fight, we plan to redouble our efforts. Our global vulture campaign, launched in October 2015, raised the alarm over the need to protect these wonderful species that is nature’s clean-up crew, the only ones that keep our habitats free of disease by eating rotting carcasses.

Spain, the country where most of the European vulture population exists, needs to show real commitment. While farmers and veterinarians are supportive, politicians remain either reluctant or simply unaware.

In 2016, we will assemble a body of compelling evidence based on solid science and the experience of our partners on the ground. We will deliver this material to the Spanish government, the European Commission and the diclofenac manufacturing company FATRO through conservation actions and via social media and advertising.

At global level, we will continue to work together with key organisations such as the IUCN and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) to develop a multi-species action plan for vultures that defines clear conservation and management actions for all threatened vultures.

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None of these planned actions will succeed without public support. As citizens, we must urge our politicians to act now. Visit our website, sign our online petition and spread the word. Europe was once a safe place for vultures, and we are determined to get this back.

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. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.