Thousands of flamingos found dead in central AnatoliaGlobal Voices

A dead flamingo in Lake Tuz. The screenshot was taken from The Independent’s video, “Massive deaths of flamingos during the drying up of Lake Turkey filmed by a drone.”

Lake Tuz (Salt Lake), a closed basin lake in Konya province in central Anatolia, is the second largest lake in Turkey. He houses many endemic species ranging from birds, insects, mammals and plant species. In 2000, the lake was declared a protected biodiversity area. It is also a temporary home for many migratory birds, including the flamingos. The lake is suitable for incubation and foraging and also allows flamingos to nurse their offspring without threat from predators. The nearby small lakes are a source of food and nutrition for these birds.

For this reason, every year in March, thousands of flamingos migrate south of Lake Tuz, earning it the nickname “flamingo paradise”. According to the Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, in 2018 a total of 12,746 flamingos hatched here and in 2019 that number reached 20,381 flamingos. Every year, at least 10,000 flamingos are born here. But this year’s migration season has come up against an unexpected hurdle: some 5,000 baby flamingos have been found dead.

Some attributed deaths from a drought in central Anatolia – a particularly dry region that has been hit even harder by global warming. This year, the waters of Lake Tuz retreated of nearly 10 kilometers. Some flamingos that hatched could not reach the water and died of malnutrition. Mehmet Emin Öztürk, wildlife photographer, Told TRT:

This province looked like a bird’s paradise. When I came this year, I saw hell instead. Hundreds, if not thousands, of flamingos had died and the bird population declined dramatically. When I came to this area before, it was a wetland, but now it’s dusty. Almost 10 kilometers of water receded. It is an excellent alarm.

Others cited the country’s farming practices as the reason for this year’s tragedy. Dams placed on neighboring canals divert water far from the lake, and underground water sources are often overexploited. Speaking to Demirören Haber Ajansı, the vice-president of the Aksaray Photographers Association, Fahri Tunç, said:

It is said that there is no more water in the water channels in the region, but this is not the case. On the contrary, they are blocked by erected sets, and through them the water is redirected to the cultivated fields. Thus, no water reaches Lake Tuz, and the animals do not have access to food or water. I call on the authorities: we must be sensitive about this.

Tunç described the death of the birds a massacre not only for the flamingos but also for other species.

In one interview with Hurriyet Daily News, Turkish Nature Association President Dicle Kılıç agreed that it is “bad agricultural and irrigation policies” to blame, rather than drought.

It is not because the channels feeding the lake have dried up. It’s stage. There is water in the canals. It’s just that this water is blocked from reaching the lake. You can see in the video. All these images were sent to us by our friend Fahri Tunç.

Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli has rejected any link with the dams in the region. Speaking during an event organized in Istanbul, the Minister mentionned:

According to the analysis conducted by the veterinary school of Selcuk University (Konya), there is no sign of poisoning. With less water and an increased concentration rate in the water, we observe the death of flightless flamingos. I want to stress that there is no direct or indirect link between this incident and the area’s wells or agricultural irrigation.

Konya Governorate posted a statement on its website, saying that the governor created a commission to investigate the mass death of flamingos and promised to find solutions.

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