Lake claims up to 28,000 birds

Up to 28,000 birds are feared dead in the Lake Koroneia in northern Greece. Test results due today are likely to attribute the ecological disaster to toxins caused by pollution, Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis said yesterday. Preliminary results from tests by Thessaloniki University scientists on dead birds show their death was almost certainly caused by toxins from chemical pollution, Kaklamanis said. Corpses of 29 types of water fowl have been collected, including at least 150 rare Dalmatian pelicans. Local authorities are waiting for the outcome of experiments conducted on mice to pinpoint the cause of the disaster at the lake, which lies some 20km (12 miles) east of Thessaloniki. If the tests are not fruitful, results from other procedures will take a few more days, scientists said. Experts have discovered that grebes and about 4,500 flamingos which frequent Lake Koroneia have not been affected by the phenomenon, probably because they are not feeding from the same toxin-affected sources as the 16,000 to 28,000 birds that have died so far. Members of the Macedonia and Thrace Hunting Federation, who first discovered the problem, blame the birds’ death on an explosion in the bacterial population, caused by pollution and a drop in the level of the lake, which completely dried up in August 2002 after its waters were siphoned off by local farmers and industries. Forty devices firing blanks were installed around the lake on Friday to scare birds off. This has reduced the death rate by up to 80 percent, authorities say. In 1995, pollution wiped out the lake’s fish population. Earlier this year, the European Commission decided to take Greece to court for failure to adequately protect a number of wildlife habitats, including Koroneia.

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