India has always been a land with a robust vulture population, owing to its 500 million cattle population (almost half of the world’s 1.3 billion) and the taboo associated with eating beef (80% of the country is Hindu). However this situation has drastically changed in just a generation.
From 1992 to 2007, the Indian population of some 400 million vultures of 9 species has dropped 99.9% due to the widespread use of a drug used to treat inflammatory disorders and pain in cattle called diclofenac. The indigenous White-rumped Vulture alone, with a population of some 80 million, was described in 1985 as “possibly the most abundant large bird of prey in the world.” Today the White-rumped Vulture is listed as Critically Endangered. Tragically, a vulture that eats the flesh of a cow to whom diclofenac was recently administered quickly perishes from acute kidney failure.