Thousands of flamingos die in drought in central Turkey

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The remains of a drought-dead flamingo, which activists link to the region’s irrigation techniques, are seen in Turkey’s Tuz Lake, one of the world’s largest hypersaline lakes, near Cihanbeyli, a city ​​of Konya province, Turkey on July 14, 2021. Photo taken with a drone on July 14, 2021. (Reuters / Stringer)

ISTANBUL – Thousands of babies flamingos have died at Lake Tuz in Turkey in the past two weeks from a drought that environmentalists say was the result of climate change and agricultural irrigation methods. Drone footage of the large salt lake in Turkey’s central Konya province showed dead flamingos lying partially buried in the dried mud. Tuz Lake is home to a flamingo colony where up to 10,000 flamingos are born each year.

Turkish Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said around 1,000 birds are believed to have died, but denied agriculture was to blame.

“With less water and an increased concentration rate in the water, we have observed the death of flightless flamingos,” he said.

“I want to stress that there is no direct or indirect link between this incident and the area’s wells or agricultural irrigation.”

Pakdemirli said “the necessary steps” had been taken, without further clarification.

In 2000, Lake Tuz was declared a Specially Protected Area, a designation that aims to protect biological diversity, natural and cultural resources.

Environmentalists blame agricultural practices and climate change for the drought, which saw demand for water in the region exceed supply by 30% last year, according to a report released by the Turkish environmental foundation TEMA.

In 2020, the annual water reserve in the central basin province near Konya was 4.5 billion cubic meters, while consumption reached 6.5 billion cubic meters, TEMA found.

Environmentalist and wildlife photographer Fahri Tunc said the water supply from a canal that feeds Lake Tuz is being redirected to agriculture.

“It’s the irrigation canal that comes from Konya. He must deliver water to Lake Tuz. As you can see, the water does not pass. It stopped, ”said environmentalist and wildlife photographer Fahri Tunc.

Tunc said only 5,000 eggs had hatched in the colony this year and most of the chicks died from lack of water on the partially dried up lake.

“It’s a sin we all commit,” Tunc said.

President of Turkish NGO Nature Association Dicle Tuba Kilic said the only way to prevent mass flamingo death is to change the methods of agricultural irrigation in the region.

Tuz Lake (salt lake) is one of the largest hypersaline lakes in the world. —Written by Yesim Dikmen Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky


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