This story began yesterday. I checked my e-mails and there was one from a former volunteer, forwarding a petition. It was about vultures. Please keep reading because this is important.

What, may you ask, has that got to do with Coombes Valley?

One of the reasons why the RSPB acquired Coombes Valley back in the 1960’s was that it was reputed to have been the last refuge of sparrowhawk in Staffordshire. Many similar birds of prey suffered badly in the 1960’s and populations crashed. Hence, why there were so few sparrowhawks in Staffordshire. Population monitoring and research back then identified a link between the declines of birds and the use of a chemical on crops – DDT. As a result is was banned. Populations recovered and I’m now pleased to say that sparrowhawks are widespread in the county and frequently seen at Coombes Valley.

This is an example of messing with our environment and the resulting devastating consequences.

So, now let me take me you to a window I used to look out of..........

Once upon a time, I shared a home with some special people in the Spanish Pyrenees. Then and still, those special people are trying to inspire and enthuse children ... and their stories include vultures. This is a picture of a griffon vulture. They are joined by Egyptian vultures in the summer and then there are the scarce but increasing bearded vultures.

Every morning when I looked out of the window when I had a shower, I could see up to the Foratata mountain. I saw lots of vultures, including bearded vulture, while trying to smell like roses! I felt incredibly lucky.

So, will I be so lucky if I return?

Well, not if the utterly brainless have anything to do with it!

So, back to the vulture e-mail.

To be honest I was tired last night – so I skimmed the e-mail briefly and thought I’d go back to it. It was a petition about banning a chemical and its impact on vultures. Then, today, it ‘clicked’. I saw an article on the guardian website: I also reflected back to a great book I had read called ‘What has nature ever done for us?’ by Tony Juniper.

The book (which I would recommend to anyone) talks about the value of nature and highlights it with some incredible (and sometimes outrageous) stories. One of those stories was all about the use of a chemical in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh at the end of the 20th century; it’s impact on birds of prey – specifically vultures.

That chemical, used to treat cattle, was diclofenac. Vultures, as carrion eaters, play an important part in cleaning up carcasses including cattle. However, in doing so, they fell victim to the devastating impacts of diclofenac as the chemical in the cattle was passed to them. Tens of millions of birds were killed in a short space of time. Within a few years vultures had declined by 99.9% across south Asia!!! The book goes beyond this to explain how the impact of declining vultures had far reaching implications for people

When the Indian government realised that some vultures were at the brink of extinction it banned diclofenac. That was back in 2006. Lesson learnt!!!

Now, it all makes sense! The petition and the guardian article. And I start to imagine looking through that window in the Spanish Pyreness. I start to realise that diclofenac has been approved for use in Italy and Spain. I start to realise that this is like the sparrowhawk story and the implications for what I see through that window.......   Then I get very angry. We’ve already seen the results of this chemical – and learnt the lesson. So, why are we repeating the mistakes????!!!

So, I agree with Dr Toby Galligan from the RSPB, quoted in the guardian:

‘It is utterly brainless to approve a drug which you know has killed tens of millions of birds in a short space of time’

What can you do to make sure that vultures remain a spectacle to share with Spanish children?

Follow the link that David Tomlinson sent me in his e-mail and sign the petition to communicate how utterly brainless you think it is too!

For some reason it won't work properly in the blog, so paste the link into your browser or go to and type 'vulture' in to the search engine.čnik-european-union-diclofenac-the-vulture-killing-drug-is-now-available-on-eu-market-ban-it-now?recruiter=84588017&utm_campaign=signature_receipt&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition