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Committing oneself to saving vultures may not be everyone's idea of a life vocation. But for 33-year-old Arnab Basu, based India's state of Assam, it is a serious mission with global health ramifications.

Over the last 10 years, the population of vultures in India and Pakistan has reduced by 95 per cent - they are now at risk of extinction.

Vultures have an important ecological role in the Asian environment, where they have been relied upon for millennia to clean up and remove dead livestock and even human corpses.

The decline in vultures is creating serious health concerns. The carcasses of dead animals, rather than being "tidied up" by scavenging vultures, now tend to lie rotting.

The rotting carrion supports booming populations of feral dogs, which in turn spread rabies. India already has the world's highest rate of rabies.

Reports also suggest human anthrax in India may be linked to the decline of vultures.

Medical experts in India confirm these diseases have spread to neighbouring countries and may even spread westward into the Middle East and Europe.

This film follows Arnab Basu as he campaigns for a ban on those livestock drugs which, consumed by vultures when they eat a carcass, have been blamed for the drastic fall in the vulture population.

Drugged to Death aired from Sunday, January 9, 2010.

Source: Al Jazeera