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Common treatments used on cattle have devastating impacts on wildlife, new study reveals - University of Sussex

© Fiona Mathews
© Fiona Mathews

Experts have stressed an urgent need to find alternatives to wormers and anti-ectoparasitic products used widely on cattle, following the findings of a study just published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

Researchers from the University of Sussex looked at a body of published evidence into the environmental impact of anthelmintics — products used as wormers and anti-parasitic agents and widely applied across the world. They found that, across all drug classes, the products were having a devastating impact on dung beetles – species that are vital prey items for a range of bat and bird species.

The study conducted by Domhnall Finch and Professor Fiona Mathews also found that some of the products actively attracted adult dung beetles, before impairing the development of their larvae.

Fiona Mathews, Professor of Environmental Biology at the University of Sussex, said: “When compared with controls, we found that dung samples from cattle treated with these products had about a third fewer dung beetle larvae. What’s particularly worrying is that the beetles actually seemed to be more attracted to treated dung but, because of the toxicity of the chemicals, their larvae have poor survival rates and face impaired development. Over time, this reduces the number of dung beetles which is troubling news for a range of bird and bat species – for which dung beetles are key prey items. Many of these species are already listed as vulnerable so any decline in prey availability is a serious concern.”

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