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Gujarat: 38 cranes dead; avian flu back?

Smitha R, DNA   |  Dec 03, 2012, 05:03AM IST
Ahmedabad: The sudden death of 38 cranes in the wetlands (salt pans) close to Victor village in Rajula range of Amreli district has raised fears of a return of the deadly bird flu virus. The matter first came to light when a bird lover informed forest officials about the death of five birds on Saturday.
 
Sunday saw the death of 30 more birds while a few others were found to be extremely ill. Of the ill birds, three more died taking the toll to 38. Incidentally, two eagles, believed to have feasted on the dead cranes were also found dead. 
 
Cranes migrate to the wetlands in this part of Gujarat from Siberia during the four months of winter. The salt pans belong to GHCL, a company involved in the production of salt.
 
Mangubhai Thapa, a bird lover and resident of a nearby village was the first to be told about death of five birds. He said that there had been sporadic incidents of bird deaths for the last one week. 
“A fortnight ago we found 15 dead birds but thought it was the handiwork of dogs. It was only when villagers informed me of the death of five birds that an alarm was raised. We informed the forest officials who sent the birds’ remains for a post-mortem,” said Thapa. 
 
Dinesh Goswami of Kodinar Nature Club, who rushed to the two wetlands (salt pans filled with water), said that on Sunday he had counted 30 dead birds. “It could be bird flu although we can’t be sure. Some of the cranes seemed extremely ill. Two eagles who might have feasted on the dead birds, also died while another is in a critical condition,” said Goswami.
 
DFO, social forestry, JK Makwana, when contacted said that the post-mortem of the birds will be done on Monday. Regarding the post-mortem report of the five birds who died earlier, he said that the reports showed that they had died due to respiratory troubles. As for the possibility of a return of avian flu, he said nothing could be said without proper investigation. “The forest department may send samples to Junagadh or Bhopal to know more details about the bird deaths,” said Makwana.
 
A team of veterinary doctors from Amreli is also likely to visit the place on Monday to collect samples.
 
Director, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), Assad Rahmani, said there is a need to investigate. “Nothing can be said without proper investigation. The blood samples of the birds should be scientifically collected and sent to Bhopal for investigation. Then only will we know what caused the birds’ death,” said Rahmani. 
 
He also said that stomach samples of the birds should be sent to know if they died due to unintentional pesticide poisoning or avian flu.
 
Another source in the department said that paralysis, as displayed by the birds, is a symptom of viral infection. Principal secretary, forest and environment department, HK Dash, could not be reached for his comment.
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