Wednesday, November 13, 2019

India: Large Die Off Of Migratory Birds In Rajasthan

Approx Location Of Sambhar Lake


For the past several days India's media has been reporting on a large bird die off at Sambhar Salt lake in the western state of Rajasthan, and while local officials are downplaying the possibility that avian flu is the culprit, no cause has yet been announced.
This is the second bird incident in Rajasthan in the past week, as 37 demoiselle cranes over wintering in the Jodhpur district, were recently found dead of suspected (but as yet, not lab confirmed) pesticide poisoning.
Although the number of bird deaths at Sambhar Lake is unknown, various reports indicate that `thousands' of a variety of species have succumbed.  This English Language report from Xinhua:

Hundreds of migratory birds found dead in India's Rajasthan
Source: Xinhua| 2019-11-12 21:42:40|Editor: xuxin
by Peerzada Arshad Hamid

NEW DELHI, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of migratory birds were found dead around a lake in India's western state of Rajasthan, officials said on Tuesday.

The carcasses of over 10 species of migratory birds, according to officials, were found scattered along the banks of Sambhar Salt Lake, about 80 km southwest of the Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan.

Sambhar Salt Lake is India's largest inland salt lake.

"Primarily it does not look deaths of birds have been caused by hunting. It could be a region specific reason," Sanjay Kaushik, a local government official said. "The deaths are being probed to ascertain the actual cause."

According to Kaushik, over 1,000 birds have died around the lake. However, locals put the number of deaths around 5,000.

Officials have collected the viscera of birds to test them in order to ascertain the actual cause of their death.

"A medical team comprising of ornithologists from Jaipur collected few carcasses and water samples," an official said. "The samples are being sent to Bhopal for further examination."

Officials said while the exact reason for the deaths was uncertain, there was possibility that deaths might have caused due to contamination in lake water.

"Things will become clear after the arrival of reports," Kaushik said.
(Continue . . . )

There are a great many potential causes for this die off, and while polluted waters and/or pesticides are currently being touted as the most likely scenario by local officials, we always pay attention to unusual mortality events in migratory birds.
Over the past 15 years a number of major bird die offs have been linked to the arrival of avian flu viruses, carried in  by migratory birds (see EID Journal: HPAI H5N8 In Migratory Birds - Qinghai Lake, 2016).
Given that this is November, and the fall southbound migratory season is well underway in the Northern Hemisphere, we'll be watching this story closely the next few days.