Vulture populations in South Asia have collapsed by over 95 per cent since the mid-1990s. The primary cause of this catastrophic decline, and still an ongoing threat, is the ingestion by vultures of livestock carcasses containing non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), principally diclofenac. Although diclofenac was banned from veterinary use in Pakistan, India and Nepal in 2006, other NSAIDs such as aceclofenac and ketoprofen still pose a major threat to Critically Endangered vultures.
WWF-Pakistan and the Hawk Conservancy Trust in the UK have been partners on the Pakistan Vulture Restoration Project (PVRP) to conserve vultures in Pakistan for the past 12 years. The project consists of a vulture breeding centre in Punjab province and a community-led vulture safe zone in Sindh province, where some of Pakistan's last remaining colonies of Critically Endangered and are found.
PVRP has continued lobbying for the removal of veterinary drugs which are unsafe for vultures. In a recent letter to the Department of Health for Sindh, the Secretary was urged to restrict the distribution of ketoprofen and aceclofenac in Sindh's Vulture Safe Zone. As a result, the Chief Drug Inspector of Sindh ordered all regional and district drug inspectors to restrict the use of these drugs.
Muhammad Jamshed Iqbal at WWF-Pakistan said: "NSAIDs such as ketoprofen and aceclofenac have proven to be fatal for Gyps vultures in clinical trials and their restriction in the Sindh will contribute significantly in the survival of the remaining populations of Gyps vultures in Pakistan."