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Vanishing Vultures: Bird deaths linked to vet-drug residues

The recent puzzling crash in vulture populations in Pakistan turns out not to be some new bird plague, as conservationists had first suspected. Instead, birds eating livestock carcasses are dying in response to consuming a veterinary drug, says an international research team.

Three species of vultures–oriental white-backed, slender-billed, and long-billed–have been dwindling in Pakistan and India since the early 1990s, says veterinarian J. Lindsay Oaks of Washington State University in Pullman. He and his colleagues eventually homed in on diclofenac, a veterinary drug widely used to treat ailing livestock, the researchers report in an upcoming issue of Nature.

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