The use of toxicokinetics and exposure studies to show that carprofen in cattle tissue could lead to secondary toxicity and death in wild vultures

V. Naidoo, M. A. Taggart, N. Duncan, K. Wolter, J. Chipangura, Rhys E. Green, Toby H. Galligan

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Veterinary medicines can be extremely damaging to the environment, as seen with the catastrophic declines in Gyps vulture in South Asia due to their secondary exposure to diclofenac in their primary food source. Not surprisingly, concern has been raised over other similar drugs. In this study, we evaluate the toxicity of carprofen to the Gyps vulture clade through plasma pharmacokinetics evaluations in Bos taurus cattle (their food source) and Gyps africanus (a validated model species); tissue residues in cattle; and the effect of carprofen as a secondary toxicant as both tissue-bound residue or pure drug at levels expected in cattle tissues. Carprofen residues were highest in cattle kidney (7.72 ± 2.38 mg/kg) and injection site muscle (289.05 ± 98.96 mg/kg of dimension of 5 × 5 × 5 cm). Vultures exposed to carprofen as residues in the kidney tissue or pure drug equivalents showed no toxic signs. When exposed to average injection site concentrations (64 mg/kg) one of two birds died with evidence of severe renal and liver damage. Toxicokinetic analysis revealed a prolonged drug half-life of 37.75 h in the dead bird as opposed to 13.99 ± 5.61 h from healthy birds dosed intravenously at 5 mg/kg. While carprofen may generally be harmless to Gyps vultures, its high levels at the injection site in treated cattle can result in lethal exposure in foraging vultures, due to relative small area of tissue it is found therein. We thus suggest that carprofen not be used in domesticated ungulates in areas where carcasses are accessible or provided to vultures at supplementary feeding sites.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-89
Number of pages10
Early online date14 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Gyps vulture
  • Diclofenac toxicity
  • Asian vulture crisis
  • Zeroorder
  • Avian toxicity

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