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Warning over vultures extinction

European and African vultures could become extinct within a generation without action to save them, conservationists have warned.

The fears over the fate of vultures in Europe and Africa come after populations of the birds, which play an important role as scavengers cleaning up dead wildlife, plummeted by more than 99% in Asia.

Asian populations were the victim of a veterinary drug, diclofenac, which is used to treat inflammation in livestock but which is lethally toxic to vultures when they ingest it from carcasses, with numbers plummeting faster than the Dodo before its extinction.

Conservation group BirdLife International is warning that the drug is commercially available in at least two European countries - Spain and Italy - both of which are strongholds for vultures in Europe.

And vultures in Africa are facing increasing threats, due to accidental and deliberate poisoning, persecution for body parts to be used in traditional medicine, habitat loss and collision with power lines, BirdLife said.

Three-quarters of vultures found in the Old World - Europe, Africa and Asia - are threatened or near-threatened with extinction, BirdLife warned.

Kariuki Ndanganga, BirdLife Africa's species programme manager, said: "Unless threats are identified and tackled quickly and effectively, vultures in Africa and Europe could face extinction within our lifetime."

Jim Lawrence, BirdLife's preventing extinctions programme manager, said: "We know what to do in Europe - ban veterinary diclofenac.

"We also know what we need to do for Africa - urgently understand fully the threats and extinction risk so we can act quickly, with priority."

The conservation charity is calling for support for its campaign to stop vulture poisoning in a bid to tackle the threats the birds face.

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