Despite the now well recognised impact of diclofenac on vultures across the Indian subcontinent, this non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) was registered in 2013 for livestock treatment in Spain, Europe’s main vulture stronghold. We assessed the risk of exposure to diclofenac and nine other NSAIDs in avian scavengers in the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) after the onset of diclofenac commercialization. We sampled 228 livestock carcasses from vulture feeding sites, primarily pig (n = 156) and sheep (n = 45). We also sampled tissues of 389 avian scavenger carcasses (306 Eurasian griffon vultures, 15 cinereous vultures, 11 Egyptian vultures, 12 bearded vultures and 45 other facultative scavengers). Samples were analysed by liquid chromatography with mass spectrometry (LCMS). Seven livestock carcasses (3.07%) contained NSAID residues: flunixin (1.75%), ketoprofen, diclofenac and meloxicam (0.44% each). NSAID residues were only detected in sheep (4.44%) and pig (3.21%) carcasses. Fourteen dead avian scavengers (3.60%) had NSAID residues in kidney and liver, specifically flunixin (1.03%) and meloxicam (2.57%). Flunixin was associated with visceral gout and/or kidney damage in three (0.98%) dead Eurasian griffons. To date, diclofenac poisoning has not been observed in Spain and Portugal, however, flunixin would appear to pose an immediate and clear risk. This work supports the need for well managed carrion disposal, alongside appropriate risk labelling on veterinary NSAIDs and other pharmaceuticals potentially toxic to avian scavengers.
- Veterinary pharmaceutical