Veterinary pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics, are emerging contaminants of concern worldwide. Avian scavengers are exposed to pharmaceuticals through consumption of livestock carcasses used for feeding wildlife for conservation purposes at supplementary feeding stations. Here we tested the hypothesis that griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus) would be more exposed to antibiotics (i.e., quinolones) when feeding on livestock carcasses from intensive farming than when they rely on carcasses from extensive farming or wild animals. We sampled 657 adult griffon vultures captured between 2008 and 2012. In addition, we sampled tissues from domestic livestock supplied at feeding stations in the study area between 2009 and 2019; pig (n = 114), sheep (n = 28), cow (n = 1) and goat (n = 2). Samples were analysed by liquid chromatography with electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-MS). Quinolones were detected in plasma from 12.9% of the griffon vultures analysed. Quinolone prevalence in griffon vultures varied significantly among feeding stations but was also affected by the total amount of carcasses supplemented, especially the mass of pig carcasses. These results aligned with a 21.1% quinolone prevalence in pig carcasses sampled at feeding stations, wherein enrofloxacin and ciprofloxacin levels of up to 3359 ng/g and 1550 ng/g, respectively, were found. Given enrofloxacin pharmacokinetics in pig tissues, 5.3% of the analysed pigs may have died no more than one day after treatment. Quinolone presence in vultures was negatively associated with blood lead levels, which mostly originates from lead ammunition and indicates a higher consumption of game animal carcasses. Carcass disposal for feeding avian scavengers must always assess and manage the risks posed by veterinary pharmaceuticals, especially when livestock provided may have died soon after treatment.
- Supplementary feeding