Asian vulture crisis
In the 1980s, there were millions of vultures in India and southern Asia, all playing a critical role in the ecosystem. They consumed the remains of cows in carcass dumps; India has 500 million cows raised for milk, but not eaten by the majority Hindu population. In the early 1990s, hundreds of thousands of vultures died before scientists identified a culprit: diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory used by vets. Vultures feeding on carcasses containing the drug died swiftly of kidney failure. Conservation India says by the late 90s, around 40 million vultures had perished. Without vultures, feral dogs moved into their ecological niche, swelling to some 5,5 million animals. About 3,5 million people got bitten by stray dogs, resulting in an estimated 47,000 deaths from rabies. Medical costs added up to $34 billion.
FEATURED IMAGE: Gyps genus at India’s Soheldev Wildlife Sanctuary. Image by Rajat Bhargava (courtesy Mongabay)