Kolkata: Steppe Eagles may soon disappear like vultures as the raptor species has been found to be under threat from killer veterinary drug diclofenac.
According to a paper published in Bird Conservation International, a journal from the Cambridge University Press, two Steppe Eagles were found dead at a cattle carcass dump in Rajasthan and had diclofenac residue in their tissues.
"We now know that diclofenac is also toxic to Aquila eagles. This suggests that the drug is fatal to a greater number of birds of prey in Asia, Europe and around the world. We had suspected as much from observed declines in non-Gyps vultures in Asia, but this study confirms our worst fears," co-researcher of the report Toby Galligan said.
The investigation was done by scientists from the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), UK-based Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Indian Veterinary Research Institute in Bareilly.
BNHS director Asad Rahmani said an increasing number of raptor species are falling prey to diclofenac.
"It is now of paramount importance that the existing ban on veterinary diclofenac in India should be strictly enforced," he said.
Diclofenac is banned in India, but is still administered to livestock illegally. The drug is poison for vultures, which feed on carcasses of animals to survive.
As a result the population of vultures have declined by an alarming rate of over 99 per cent during the last two decades.
Recent findings in Rajasthan show the same clinical signs of kidney failure as were seen in Gyps vultures after they had ingested diclofenac.
Researchers say they have observed extensive visceral gout, lesions and uric acid deposits in the liver, kidney and spleen of the two birds and diclofenac residue in the tissues.
Although a bird of prey, Steppe Eagle also feeds on carcass dumps. It is a winter visitor to most areas in northern and central India and some areas in western and eastern India.
Other specie of Aquila eagles that are known to frequent carcass dumps include Tawny Eagle, Eastern Imperial Eagle and Indian Spotted Eagle.
Scientists now fear that all specie in this genus, known as Aquila, are susceptible to diclofenac, the paper said.