Cambodia Bans Veterinary Sale and Use of Diclofenac to Preserve Vulture

AKP Phnom Penh, July 30, 2019 —

The Government of Cambodia has recently banned the veterinary sale and use of diclofenac in the Kingdom with immediate effect, according to a news release from BirdLife International Cambodia Programme.

The Government has taken this measure to safeguard the remaining Cambodian vulture population, which is declining and threatened with extinction.

“Diclofenac, whilst harmless to cattle and other livestock, results in death of vultures if they feed on a carcass of an animal previously treated with this drug,” said Dr. Julia Stenkat, ACCB’s veterinarian.

All vulture species occurring in the Kingdom are protected under Cambodian law and this precautionary measure by the Government of Cambodia will reduce the risk of accidental diclofenac poisoning, although the risk of poisoning from other agricultural chemicals like carbofuran remains an ever-present danger to Cambodia’s declining vultures.

The vulture population of India, formerly the largest in the world and numbering in the millions, suffered a 99 percent decline as a consequence of the veterinary use of diclofenac administered to cattle. The nearly disappearance of these main scavengers from the ecosystem, resulted in a huge public health crisis as millions of cattle carcasses dumped daily in refuse dumps went uneaten. The feral dog population grew and this lead to an increased number of human deaths from rabies. As a result, the Government of India banned the veterinary use of diclofenac, promoted meloxicam, a harmless and equally effective substitute drug and there is now evidence of vulture population recovery.

According to the Cambodia Vulture Working Group1 (CVWG), Cambodia’s vultures are facing an increasingly high risk of extinction and continuous monitoring has shown a 50 percent decline. Poisoning and habitat loss are the main reasons for their decline. 2019 national census recorded that only 120 vultures remain in the Kingdom.

In 2018, diclofenac was found on sale for the first time in Cambodia by the CVWG who advocated a ban to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). One year later on July 15, 2019 MAFF has issued a ban on the importation, sale and distribution (including a recall) of diclofenac for veterinary purposes, to preempt a similar catastrophe as suffered in India.

“H.E. the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries recognises the potential impact of a diclofenac ban on the Kingdom’s vultures and the consequences this could have for human health. MAFF is pleased to have worked with the CVWG to issue this ban,” said Dr. Nou Vonika, Director of Department of Animal Health and Veterinary Public Health, General Directorate of Animal Health and Production.

“We applaud MAFF’s decision. It is one of critical steps aiming to save and prevent the extinction of Cambodia’s vultures impacted by diclofenac used for veterinary purpose. This decision needs to be circulated, enforced and monitored,” said Teak Seng, Country Director of WWF Cambodia.

“The challenge now is to ensure the relevant provincial authorities are aware of the ban and have CVWG support to help enforce it,” said Ny Naiky, BirdLife International and CVWG coordinator who continued, “This preemptive measure by MAFF is most welcomed, but poisoning of vultures with other agricultural chemical, including carbofuran, a deadly carbomate pesticide is a major challenge.”

By Khan Sophirom

(Photo: BirdLife International)