A drought-stricken lake bed in Turkey is strewn with thousands of dead baby and adult flamingos, alarming environmentalists shocked by the continuing ravages of climate change, reckless agricultural irrigation and callous government policies.
Lake Tuz is usually a draw for tourists delighted by the stunning views and huge flocks of the brightly colored birds who travel there each year. But a vast stretch of the huge cracked and dried lake bed in the central province of Konya is now an animal killing field.
Environmental activists have pleaded with the government to do more to protect the lake’s wildlife in the face of the deadly drought. A canal that usually feeds the shallow lake has been redirected instead to farmers, who have been accused of wasting tremendous amounts of water with inefficient irrigation.
“This is the irrigation canal that comes from Konya. It needs to deliver water to Lake Tuz. As you can see, the water is not coming through. It stopped,” wildlife photographer Fahri Tunc told India’s WION-TV. (Check out the video above.)
“It is a sin we are all committing,” he added.
Tunc said only 5,000 chicks hatched this year, and most of them died. Typically as many as 10,000 chicks hatch.
Ankara resident Istem Donmez, who went to photograph what he expected to be the typical flamingo spectacle, told France 24: “There were no live flamingos. We saw only dead birds.”
The “water of the lake was all gone and there wasn’t even a reflection of water when you take a photo. In various places, there were dead flamingos, both large and small,” said Donmez. “It was just like a desert.”
Lake Tuz is supposed to be a protected area to support biological diversity.
Turkish Agriculture Minister Bekir Pakdemirli claimed some 1,000 birds died, but denied that agriculture was to blame. “With less water” and more intense salt concentrations “we observed deaths of flaminglets that were unable to fly,” he said.
Lake Tuz — which means “Salt Lake” in Turkish — is the nation’s second-largest lake. Its high salt content makes it an ideal breeding ground for some bird species, including the flamingos that usually appear in the spring and summer.