Caffeine and drugs form part of the daily “cocktail” of vultures that feed on garbage cans and landfills. This is shown in a study carried out by scientists from the Wildlife Toxicology Research Group of the Hunting Resources Research Institute – of which the University of Castilla-La Mancha and the Higher Council for Scientific Research are part – and the University of the Highlands and Islands (United Kingdom).
The study examined the role of middens in the exposure of griffon vultures (“Gyps fulvus”) to 49 veterinary drugs through the carcass of treated animals. The presence of caffeine in the plasma of vultures also indicates frequent use of urban garbage for food.
In Spain, the adverse effects of some drugs such as NSAIDs, barbiturates, external antiparasitics and antibiotics have been described in different species of scavenger birds, some of which have fatal results. Despite their widespread use in veterinary medicine, especially in intensive livestock farms, until now almost no research has been done on the presence of these compounds from the carcasses of the drugs animal in the bodies of scavenging birds that eat it.
In this research work, up to 18 different drugs were found in 54.1 percent of the cattle carcasses that contributed to the middens to feed the vultures, noting the presence of some highly toxic ones such as diclofenac , flunixin and ketoprofen. In addition, the misuse of some of these compounds provided by species where their use is not authorized has been observed.
Caffeine was also found in the plasma of 73.7 percent of vultures sampled in urban landfills. According to this work, published in the scientific journal “Journal of Hazardous Materials”, this novel finding shows that caffeine can be a good biomarker for the ingestion of urban waste in landfills, in the same way that lead was found in the blood. This is an indication of the consumption of game meat by vultures.
The research concluded that “vultures are constantly exposed to a wide variety of pharmaceutical products in Spain and a relationship is particularly observed between this exposure and the contributions of pig and chicken carcasses to the middens .” It is also emphasized that the standards specified in the leaflets of some drugs, such as diclofenac and flunixin, are not sufficient to prevent them from entering the food chains of scavenging birds. The study recommends stricter controls on carcasses used to feed vultures as well as preventing carcasses of livestock that have been treated with highly toxic drugs in the hours or days before their death from becoming infected. -arrived in the middens or abandoned in the countryside.