A PhD scholarship is on offer at Leeds University to examine the impact of the drug Flubendazole (the active ingredient in medicated grit) in grouse moor river catchments.
Medicated grit is routinely used by the grouse shooting industry to dose red grouse with high quantities of the worming drug Flubendazole. It’s being used so frequently that it has caused the natural cyclical red grouse population crashes to end, resulting in ridiculously high densities of red grouse available to shoot. These high densities of birds gathering at medicated grit boxes has led to the rapid spread of Cryptosporidiosis in recent years (see here).
There has been considerable concern about the unregulated use of this drug, its potential for reaching the human food chain, and its effect on sensitive moorland habitat. Last year we discovered that some grouse moor managers are using a new super-strength grit, at least 10 times the strength permitted for use in the UK, and that the Government’s statutory agency (Veterinary Medicines Directorate) wasn’t testing any samples because they ‘didn’t know where to find them’ (see here). The VMD promised to start testing in 2016 but so far, according to our enquiries, they’ve only managed to test four red grouse. That’s right, in the whole of the UK, they’ve tested four birds. Shockingly incompetent. We’ll wait until the end of the grouse shooting season (10 Dec) before asking for their full annual sampling results.
Preliminary research by academics at Leeds University has already found high concentrations of Flubendazole on grouse moors in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (North Yorkshire). Quote: ‘Soil samples spread across three different grouse moors contained concentrations ranging between 150 and 850 µg kg-1 dry soil. This is of the same order of magnitude as peak concentrations of veterinary medicines found in agricultural soils following manure application (Kay et al., 2004). These agricultural concentrations are significant enough to have driven the development of policy to better manage the presence of veterinary medicines in the environment (EC, 2001) and it is expected that the proposed work would lead to further development of this policy, specifically risk assessment procedures, for moorlands‘.
This looks set to be a fascinating and important study and an excellent opportunity for a budding academic to make their mark.
The PhD will begin in October 2017. Full title: Analysis, occurrence and effects of Flubendazole in moorland river catchments (details here) under the supervision of Dr Paul Kay, Dr Richard Ansell and Professor Jeanette Rotchell. Deadline for applications is Monday 9 January 2017.
Photo: medicated grit tray with marker post on a Nidderdale grouse moor (RPUK)