Indian Vultures Near Extinction Due to Cattle Painkiller

Three vulture species in India are nearing extinction at an unprecedented rate due to a common painkiller used on cattle in the region. The drug, diclofenac, is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory in the same class as ibuprofen. It has been widely used on humans for decades; it was adopted for veterinary uses in India and Pakistan in the early 1990s. Turns out it causes acute kidney failure in vultures, which feed on the (commonly unburied) flesh of dead cows. The vultures have been disappearing at a rate greater than that of the now-extinct passenger pigeon or dodo — 99 percent are already gone — marking the first clear-cut case of a major pharmaceutical leading directly to ecological damage. Researchers and enviro groups plan to push for a ban on the drug. The finding highlights just how hard it is for human beings not to kill stuff.