Flamingos deaths so far this year have reached 59, officials said on Tuesday.
The mass death of around 20 flamingos at the Larnaca Salt Lake prompted public reaction on January 25. However, more deaths had occurred earlier in the month and since, Game and Fauna spokesman Petros Anayiotos told Cyprus Mail.
“Flamingos die almost every year,” Anayiotos said. “Where there are thousands of birds, deaths are inevitable.”
A population count conducted by the Game Fund last month showed 9,000 flamingos in Larnaca and 8,000 in the Akrotiri wetlands so far this year.
The necropsy on the 20 flamingos revealed the birds died from lead poisoning.
Pellets have been found in the lake from a nearby shooting range that used to operate in the area. It was closed more than 15 years ago. The mud in the lake was cleared back in 2003 at a depth of 10-15cm, after the range closed down, yet lead is still being found in the dead birds’ tissue this year.
The reason why so many birds died this year was partly due to heavy rainfall that forced them to move closer to the former shooting range. “Since the water level in the lake rose, flamingos were forced to move to shallow waters, closer to the former location of the shooting range,” explained Anayiotos.
More rain is expected later this week, which might increase the number of deaths according to the game and fauna spokesman.
The department is in communication with the Larnaca municipality and will prepare a study in an attempt to resolve the problem, he said.
Meanwhile, game fund officials are patrolling the area and when they spot a dead flamingo or ones which appear weakened, they take them to a vet.
“If it is necessary to clean up the mud of the lake, then we will have to do it,” Anayiotos said, but although cleaning up the sensitive area of the Salt Lake might be beneficial for the flamingos, other species might be harmed however, he added.