Massive fish kill blankets Arkansas
(CNN) -- Arkansas officials are investigating the death of an estimated 100,000 fish in the state's northwest, but suspect disease was to blame, a state spokesman said Sunday.
Dead drum fish floated in the water and lined the banks of a 20-mile stretch of the Arkansas River near Ozark, about 125 miles northwest of Little Rock, said Keith Stephens of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. A tugboat operator discovered the fish kill Thursday night, and fisheries officials collected some of the dying animals to conduct tests.
Stephens said fish kills occur every year, but the size of the latest one is unusual, and suggested some sort of disease was to blame.
"The fish kill only affected one species of fish," he said. "If it was from a pollutant, it would have affected all of the fish, not just drum fish."
Ozark is about 125 miles west of the town of Beebe, where game wardens are trying to find out why up to 5,000 blackbirds fell from the sky just before midnight New Year's Eve.
Biologists believe the bird deaths were stress-related from either fireworks or weather and are unrelated to the fish kill near Ozark, Stephens said.
|Arkansas game officials probe
mystery of falling birds
By the CNN Wire Staff
January 2, 2011
(CNN) -- Arkansas game officials hope testing scheduled to begin Monday will solve the mystery of why up to 5,000 birds fell from the sky just before midnight New Year's Eve.
The birds -- most of which were dead -- were red-winged blackbirds and starlings, and they were found within a one-mile area of Beebe, about 40 miles northeast of Little Rock, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said. Birds fell over about a one-mile area, the commission said in a statement.
As of Saturday, between 4,000 and 5,000 birds had been found dead, said Keith Stephens with the commission.
"Shortly after I arrived, there were still birds falling from the sky," said commission wildlife officer Robby King in the statement. He said he collected about 65 dead birds.
The commission said it flew over the area to gauge the scope of the event, and no birds were found outside of the initial one-mile area.
Karen Rowe, an ornithologist for the commission, said the incident is not that unusual and is often caused by a lightning strike or high-altitude hail.
A strong storm system moved through the state earlier in the day Friday.
"It's important to understand that a sick bird can't fly. So whatever happened to these birds happened very quickly," Rowe told CNN Radio on Sunday.
"Something must have caused these birds to flush out of the trees at night, where they're normally just roosting and staying in the treetops ... and then something got them out of the air and caused their death and then they fell to earth," Rowe added.
Officials also speculated that fireworks shot by New Year's revelers in the area might have caused severe stress in the birds. Rowe said Sunday there was evidence that large fireworks may have played a role.
"Initial examinations of a few of the dead birds showed trauma. Whether or not this trauma was from the force of hitting the ground when they fell or from something that contacted them in the air, we don't know," Rowe said.
The dead birds will be sent for testing to labs at the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission and the National Wildlife Health Center in Wisconsin.
The necropsies will begin Monday, Stephens said, and the findings should be available sometime this week.
The city of Beebe has hired U.S. Environmental Services to begin the cleanup and dispose of the dead birds, the commission said. The firm's workers will go door-to-door and pick up birds still in yards and on rooftops.
|Experts: Loud noise sent 5,000
Arkansas birds flying to their deaths
By Tristan Smith and Michael Martinez, CNN
January 5, 2011
(CNN) -- Experts believe a loud noise or event was behind the mass death of as many as 5,000 red-winged blackbirds and starlings in Arkansas on New Year's Eve, when they all flew into buildings at night, veterinarian Dr. John Fischer said Wednesday.
Fischer, of the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens, Georgia, said the bang startled very large roosts in a square-mile area in Beebe, Arkansas, 40 miles northeast of Little Rock.
Agreeing with this finding later Wednesday was the U.S. Geological Survey's National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin, whose preliminary test results showed that the red-winged blackbirds died from blunt-force trauma. The report supported preliminary findings from the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission released Monday.
Necropsies on the carcasses at the Wisconsin lab revealed internal hemorrhaging, according to a Arkansas Game and Fish Commission statement. Tests showed no pesticides, and results are pending for additional chemical toxins and infectious diseases, authorities said.
Unusually loud noises, reported shortly before the birds began to fall, caused the birds to flush from a roost, and New Year's Eve fireworks in the area may have forced the birds to fly at a lower altitude than normal, causing them to hit houses, vehicles and trees, the commission's statement said. Blackbirds have poor night vision and typically don't fly at night.
The collisions caused internal trauma, Fischer said.
"At this stage of the game, I don't see anything that will alarm me or precipitate alarming the public at all," Fischer told CNN.
Karen Rowe, an ornithologist for the game and fish commission, said this week such incidents are not that unusual and often are caused by a lightning strike or high-altitude hail. A strong storm system moved through the state earlier in the day Friday.
Officials have also speculated that fireworks shot by New Year's revelers in the area might have startled the birds.
In a separate incident 450 miles south of Beebe, some 500 red-winged blackbirds, starlings and sparrows were found dead Monday morning on streets in the southern Louisiana community of Labarre.
Fischer told CNN Wednesday that X-rays of those birds found hemorrhaging consistent with traumatic death, and the birds apparently flew into stationary objects and power lines.
Michael Seymour, a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries ornithologist, said he would not relate what happened to Arkansas to what happened in Louisiana.
"On the outside, it's obviously pretty easy to link them together and find the pattern there, but as of now, there is absolutely no linking besides some of the species involved," he said.
Seymour said these preliminary results tend to point toward some sort of collision or traumatic event as opposed to a virus or bacterium.
"We obviously have to wait on final results," he said. "We're still waiting on the toxicology reports, which could take weeks."
Seymour said there is a "pretty good chance" the bird hit power lines.
"It's the No. 2 killer in the U.S.," Seymour said.
|2 million fish found dead in
By the CNN Wire Staff
January 6, 2011
(CNN) -- Authorities in Maryland are investigating the deaths of about 2 million fish in Chesapeake Bay.
"Natural causes appear to be the reason," the Maryland Department of the Environment said in a news release. "Cold water stress exacerbated by a large population of the affected species (juvenile spot fish) appears to be the cause of the kill."
The investigation comes days after the deaths of an estimated 100,000 fish in northwest Arkansas. Authorities suspect disease was to blame there, a state spokesman said.
In Maryland, preliminary tests showed water quality to be acceptable, officials said.
"The affected fish are almost exclusively juvenile spot fish, 3 to 6 inches in length," the Maryland department said. A recent survey "showed a very strong population of spot in the bay this year. An increased juvenile population and limited deep water habitat would likely compound the effects of cold water stress."
Large winter kills of spot fish have occurred at least twice before in the state, in 1976 and 1980, the department said.
|Hundreds of snapper wash up
By ROB KIDD - Waikato Times
Hundreds of dead snapper have washed up on Coromandel beaches, leaving holidaymakers perplexed.
People at Little Bay and Waikawau Bay, on the north-east of the peninsula, were stunned when children came out of the sea with armfuls of the fish and within minutes the shore was littered with them.
Charlotte Pearsall, whose family have lived at Little Bay for the last 30 years, said she had never seen anything like it.
''It was so surreal,'' she said. ''It's such an incredible waste - it could've fed the whole northern tip of the Coromandel.''
People with binoculars said the snapper stretched as far as they could see and boaties reported ''a carpet of floating fish further out to sea all along the coast''.
''We initially thought 'woohoo a free feed' but they had really cloudy eyes and you could see the birds had been at them. Some of them had no eyes,'' Pearsall said.
Her parents called the Department of Conservation and were told it was most likely the fish had starved due to weather conditions, but Pearsall did not think that was the case as many of the fish looked big and healthy.
The Fisheries Ministry are currently investigating the situation and said they could not yet say what the cause was.
''Any commercial operators must record and report their catch,'' said ministry field operations officer for Waikato, Bay of Plenty and the Coromandel Brendon Mikkelsen.
''They're equally as concerned as we are . . . it's
not in anybody's interests for fish to be abandoned at sea.''
People saw floating snapper in the water as early as 5am yesterday but the ministry only received reports 12 hours later.
Mikkelsen urged people to get in touch as soon as they saw anything amiss by calling the freephone poacher number 0800 476 224.
|Bird die-offs not at all uncommon,
Readers who worry that there's something nefarious afoot in the multiple reported bird die-offs in the nation this past week can take heart. There's actually excellent historical evidence that this sort of thing happens all the time, according to Randall Cerveny, a professor of geography at the School of Geographical Sciences & Urban Planning at Arizona State University in Tempe.
"Massive bird falls have long been noted," he tells USA Today. Here he lists 12 over the past century:
1. Baton Rouge LA: July 1896:
On Friday morning last early risers in the little capital [Baton Rouge La.] witnessed a peculiar sight in the shape of a shower of birds that fell from a clear sky, literally cluttering the streets of birds that fell from a clear sky, literally cluttering the streets of the city. There were wild ducks, catbirds, woodpeckers, and many birds of strange plumage, some of them resembling canaries, but all dead, falling in heaps along the thoroughfares, the singular phenomenon attracting many spectators and causing much comment.
The most plausible theory as to the strange windfall is that the birds were driven inland by the recent storm on the Florida coast, the force of the current of air and the sudden change of temperature causing death to many of the feathered creatures when they reached Baton Rouge. Some idea of the extent of the shower may be gathered from the estimate that out on National Avenue alone the children of the neighborhood collected 200 birds.
2. Worthington MN, March 13, 1904: 750,000 Bird Fall.
"Roberts tells the fate of migrating Lapland Longspurs on the night of March 13-14, 1904 which 'was very dark but not cold, and a heavy, wet snow was falling with but little wind stirring. Migrating Longspurs came from the Iowa prairies in a vast horde, and from 11 P.M. until morning, incredible numbers met their deaths in and about villages by flying against buildings, electric light poles and wires, and by dashing themselves forcibly onto the frozen ground and ice.' In Worthington, Minnesota, an attempt was made to compute the numbers lying dead on two lakes with an aggregate area of about two square miles. 'A conservative estimate showed that there were at least 750,000 dead Longspurs lying on the two lakes along!' The total area on which dead migrants were found covered approximately 1,500 square miles."
3. Shreveport LA, March 20, 1941:
Associated Press: Blackbirds by the hundreds dropped dead from the sky at Barksdale Field. They cluttered the army airbase so thickly that its police were called out to clear the ground. A soldier said that large flocks of the birds broke flight suddenly and plopped to the ground. Some of the dead birds were taken to the post hospital, where surgeons began autopsies."
4. Pageland, SC, May 15, 1942:
Thousands of birds fell on the town of Pageland South Carolina on May 15, 1942.
5. New York City NY, September 11, 1948:
Thousands of birds (of various species) were killed when they crashed into the Empire State Building in New York City and into the transmitting tower of Radio Station WBAL in Baltimore. In this case, "there was no fog and weather conditions were good during the night and morning."
6. Warner Robbins Air Force Base, Georgia, October 7, 1954:
50,000 birds, representing 53 species littered the runways of Warner Robbins Air Force Base south of Macon, Georgia.
"On the night of October 7-8, 1954, the largest recorded ceilometer kill in history occurred at Warner Robbins Air Force Base, a few miles south of Macon, Georgia. It involved 53 species and an estimated 50,000 birds, 2552 of which were examined... An advancing cold front in autumn is believed to have precipitated these mass mortalities by bringing together adverse weather conditions (especially a lowered cloud ceiling), nocturnal migrants, ceilometers and/or all obstructions."
7. Eau Claire, WI, September 20, 1957:
According to Charles Kemper, a local bird watcher in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, the largest single killed ever recorded was a 20,000 bird fall discovered on September 20, 1957. The article suggests radio towers as the cause.
8. Santa Cruz and Capitola, CA, August 18, 1961:
Sooty Shearwaters are large oceanic birds that migrate from Australia, New Zealand and South America every fall to the coastal waters of North America. On August 18, 1961, tons of dead and injured sooty shearwaters fell on the coast of California from Pleasure Point to Rio Del Mar, along Monterey Bay.
Police officer Ed Cunningham first noticed the deluge of dead birds around 2:30 A.M. when large dead birds started crashing around his patrol car.
"By the time I had stopped the car they were raining down all around me. They were big birds and they were falling so fast and hard they could have knocked me senseless," he recalled. "I thought I had better stay in the car and that's just what I did."
Eventually driving from Capitola for about five miles to West Cliff Drive, however, Cunningham found the shore highway and beach also covered with dead birds.
At sunrise, the carnage was even more dramatic - bird carcasses covered power lines, fence posts, shrubbery and TV antennas. Authorities identified the large birds as a type of petrel known as the sooty shearing. A few of the creatures survived their plunge to earth and eventually flew away.
Experts who examined the dead birds confirmed they were killed by the fall. Thousands of birds, the corpses up to 16 inches long with wing spans of more than 3 feet. They lay everywhere. Several thousand were still alive but unable to fly; those live birds taken by local people down to the ocean recovered. No explanation has been accepted for the cause of the fall.
9. New York City, NY, September 29, 1970:
Thousands of birds crashed into the Empire State Building. It was supposed that they had been attracted by floodlighting but on that evening the tower lights had been turned off a few hours before they hit.
10. Winfield KS, January 22, 1998: MSNBC.
On January 22, 1998 up to 10,000 birds, mostly Lapland longspures were slaughtered at a tower during a West Kansas snowstorm. According to Eugene Young, a professor at Southwestern College in Winfield Kansas, "There were birds scattered all around the agricultural fields, up to a quarter-mile from the tower. And you could see birds that were impaled on the stubble. It was milo or wheat stubble. The birds actually flew into the ground hard enough."
11. Orlando, FL, August 17, 2001:
Orlando Sentinel: Nearly a hundred birds dropped from trees or even in mid-flight about 6 P.M. in downtown Orlando's Lake Eola Park on Friday. Most were grackles and pigeons but at least one duck also was found dead. Park rangers quickly informed hundreds of people gathered to watch an outdoor movie (Chicken Run) not to touch the birds.
Witnesses were shocked: "I didn't know what was going on," said Ruth Vlahakes, 26, walking in the park with her sister, Sarah, "I knew something was weird. I saw a bird, then she saw one, then there was another one, and another one. Every time we went around we saw another dead bird."
12. Sangongian village, Jiangsu province, China, February 3, 2004:
London Mail & Guardian: More than 10,000 bird fell from the sky onto eastern China's Jiangsu province, the state media reported. The Beijing Youth Daily reported that flocks of bramble finch suddenly fell from the sky onto the Sangongvillage in Taizhou city. Experts from the Jiangsu province agriculture department said that because the birds died while in flight, the cause of death may have been contamination in their food, water or environment. The birds looked like sparrows and were small in size.
By Elizabeth Weise
Here are the citations for the incidents above, courtesy of Prof. Cerveny
1. Philadelphia Times article of 1896; McAtee, W.L., 1917: Showers of Organic Matter, Monthly Weather Review, 45: 217-224; San Jose CA Gazette, Nov. 4, 1896; Berlitz, C., 1991: Charles Berlitz's World of the Odd and the Awesome, New York, Fawcett Crest, pp. 272, p. 5; Calkins, C.C., 1982: Mysteries of the Unexplained, The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. Pleasantville, New York, pp. 320, p. 199; Corliss, W.R, 1983: Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation and Related Weather Phenomena: A Catalog of Geophysical Anomalies. Glen Arm, MD, the Sourcebook Project, pp. 173, p 76; Edwards, F., 1964: Strange World, Ace Star Books, New York, pp. 251, p. 42; Fort, C., 1974: The Complete Books of Charles Fort, Dover Publications, New York, pp. 1125, p. 252; Michell, J. and R.J.M. Rickard, 1977: Phenomena: A Book of Wonders, Pantheon Books, New York, pp. 128, p. 14; Gaddis, V., 1968: Mysterious Fires and Lights, Dell Publishing Company, New York, pp. 236, p. 41-42; Brandon, J., 1978: Weird America (A guide to places of mystery in the United States), New York: Dutton, pp. 257, p. 96; Hitching, Francis, 1978: The Mysterious World: An Atlas of the Unexplained, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York, pp. 256, p. 195; Teale, Edward, 1935: "Strange Pranks of the Wind" Popular Science Monthly, 127:38-39 (July, 1935); Talman, C.F., 1931: The Realm of the Air. Indianapolis, Ind: Bolls-Merrill, pp. 318, p. 271; Priestley, Harold E., 1979: Truly Bizarre, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., New York, pp. 224, p. 186; Hunt, Gerry, 1988: Beyond Belief: Bizarre America, Berkley, New York, pp. 152, p. 59, 78; Persinger, Michael A. and Gyslaine F. Lafreniére, 1977: Space-Time Transients and Unusual Events, Nelson-Hall, Chicago, pp. 267, p. 35; Spencer, John and Anne Spencer, 1999: The Encyclopedia of the World's Greatest Unsolved Mysteries, Barricade Books, New York, pp. 374, p. 142; Dennis, Jerry, 1992: It's Raining Frogs and Fishes (Four Seasons of Natural Phenomena and Oddities of the Sky), Harper Perennial, New York, pp. 323, p. 49
2. Roberts, Thomas S., 1932: The Birds of Minnesota, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, p. 446; Hochbaum, H. Albert, 1955: Migrations of Waterfowl, The University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, pp. 301, p. 168; Corliss, W.R, 1983: Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation and Related Weather Phenomena: A Catalog of Geophysical Anomalies. Glen Arm, MD, the Sourcebook Project, pp. 173, p 77; Clark, J., 2001: Unexplained Phenomena 2002 Calendar, Accord Publishing Ltd., Denver, Colorado (March 13); Hunt, Gerry, 1988: Beyond Belief: Bizarre America, Berkley, New York, pp. 152, p. 78-79
3. Associated Press (March 20, 1940); "Rain of Dead Blackbirds," Fortean Society Magazine, 1:4 (October, 1941); Corliss, W.R, 1983: Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation and Related Weather Phenomena: A Catalog of Geophysical Anomalies. Glen Arm, MD, the Sourcebook Project, pp. 173, p 76; Corliss, W.R.,1977: Handbook of Unusual Natural Phenomena, Glen Arm MD: Sourcebook Project, pp 542, p. 244; Hunt, Gerry, 1988: Beyond Belief: Bizarre America, Berkley, New York, pp. 152, p. 78
4. Crean, Patrick G (editor), 1982: Ripley's Believe It or Note!: Book of Chance, Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, Inc., New York, pp. 333, p. 130
5. INS dispatch (September 12, 1948); Gaddis, V., 1968: Mysterious Fires and Lights, Dell Publishing Company, New York, pp. 236, p. 41
6. Johnson, D.W. and T.P. Haines, 1957: "Analysis of Mass Bird Mortality in October, 1954," The Auk, 74:447; Adams, R.B. (ed), 1990: Forces of Nature, Library of Curious and Unusual Facts, Time-Life Books, Alexandria VA, pp.144, p. 43; Corliss, W.R, 1983: Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation and Related Weather Phenomena: A Catalog of Geophysical Anomalies. Glen Arm, MD, the Sourcebook Project, pp. 173, p 77; Hunt, Gerry, 1988: Beyond Belief: Bizarre America, Berkley, New York, pp. 152, p. 79
7. MSNBC new report by Bruce Taylor Seeman, Newhouse News Service (May 29, 2000)
8. The Santa Cruz Sentinel, August 18, 1961; Calkins, C.C., 1982: Mysteries of the Unexplained, The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. Pleasantville, New York, pp. 320, p. 205; Edwards, F., 1964: Strange World, Ace Star Books, New York, pp. 251, p. 42-43; Berlitz, C., 1991: Charles Berlitz's World of the Odd and the Awesome, New York, Fawcett Crest, pp. 272, p. 5; Gaddis, V., 1968: Mysterious Fires and Lights, Dell Publishing Company, New York, pp. 236, p. 42; Hunt, Gerry, 1988: Beyond Belief: Bizarre America, Berkley, New York, pp. 152, p. 59; Persinger, Michael A. and Gyslaine F. Lafreniére, 1977: Space-Time Transients and Unusual Events, Nelson-Hall, Chicago, pp. 267, p. 35
9. Brandon, J., 1978: Weird America (A guide to places of mystery in the United States), New York: Dutton, pp. 257, p. 162
10. MSNBC new report by Bruce Taylor Seeman, Newhouse News Service (May 29, 2000)
11. Johnson, Pamela J. and Doris Bloodsworth, 2001: Dying birds rain on Eola, OrlandoSentinel.com (orlandosentinel.com/news/local/orl-nws-birds081801.story <http://orlandosentinel.com/news/local/orl-nws-birds081801.story> )
12. Anonymous, 2004: Mystery as dead birds rain down, London Mail&Guardian (www.mg.co.za/Content/13.asp?ao=30686 <http://www.mg.co.za/Content/13.asp?ao=30686> )
|Mysterious Bird Deaths
"An eight-year study by Indian zoologists has failed to establish why birds commit suicide year after year at the small village of Jatinga in the northeastern state of Assam.
"Attracted by the lights, birds converge on Jatinga at night and on landing become immobile, stop feeding and starve. They neither resist capture nor try to fly away."
The mysterious phenomenon dates back to 1905. It peaks in September and October, as the monsoon season wanes, with as many as 500 birds, from some 36 species, dying each night. The birds alight at the same spot each year -- a one-kilometer stretch in the town. No one can account for the selection of this precise spot or for the dazed condition of the birds. (Jayaraman, K.S.; "Mystery of Bird Deaths in Assam," Nature, 331:556, 1988.)
From Science Frontiers #57, MAY-JUN 1988. © 1988-2000 William R. Corliss
|Thousands of fish washed up
in Chicago and hundreds of birds perish in California as animal deaths
continue to bemuse scientists
By Daily Mail Reporter 12th January 2011
700 turtle doves dead as global phenomenon shows no sign of abating
Thousands of gizzard shad fish have been washed up on Chicago's harbours while more than 100 dead birds have been found clustered on a California highway.
The two instances appear to be a continuation of the strange mass animal deaths that have struck in the past fortnight - in America and elsewhere.
However Lake Michigan Program biologist Dan Makauskas said that gizzard shad are not a very tough variety of fish and are more sensitive to drops in oxygen levels than most fish.
Mr Makauskas suggested that the young fish may not have built up enough reserves to withstand the early onslaught of extreme cold that hit the area.
Canada geese and mallard ducks have eaten many of the dead fish.
Meanwhile, California wildlife officials are attempting to work out what caused the death of more than 100 birds found clustered together just off Highway 101.
The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports that California Highway Patrol officers found the dead birds near the roadway on Saturday and called in the state Department of Fish and Game to investigate.
The officers who found the birds described them as small with brown and black feathers.
They were intact and had not been shot.
but experts think that the birds had just simply eaten too much
before groups of 10 or 20 began hitting roofs and cars
The reports come as other, larger bird deaths have been reported in Arkansas, Louisiana and other states.
First there came bird and fish deaths on December 31 in Arkansas, followed by reports of several other mass animal deaths around the world.
And yesterday, 700 turtle doves were found dead in Faenza, in northern Italy.
Local agency GeaPress reported: 'They are in heaps in the flowerbeds, crushed by machinery in the streets, horribly hung from trees like Christmas balls.'
While conspiracy theorists have been busy trying to find explanations for the mass deaths - from government testing to alien interference - the answer to the dead doves in Italy appears simple: they ate too much.
Scientists say mass die-offs of wildlife happen regularly, and are usually unrelated and unreported
Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, after unusually cold weather earlier this week:
SOURCE: Daily Mail
|Mass Deaths in Sheep Grazing
on Bt Cotton
ISIS Report 03/05/06
At least 1 800 sheep reported dead from severe toxicity after grazing on Bt cotton fields in just four villages in Andhra Pradesh India
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
The Bt trail of dead sheep, ill workers and dead villagers over three years
At least 1 820 sheep were reported dead after grazing on post-harvest Bt cotton crops; the symptoms and post-mortem findings strongly suggest they died from severe toxicity. This was uncovered in a preliminary investigation conducted by civil society organisations in just four villages in the Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh in India. The actual problem is likely to be much greater.
This latest report confirms the findings of an earlier fact-finding investigation, also conducted by civil society organisations, on illnesses in cotton farm workers and handlers caused by Bt cotton in another cotton-growing state, Madhya Pradesh, in India (“More illnesses linked to Bt crops”, this series).
And not so long ago, we reported similar illnesses and deaths among villagers in the Philippines linked to exposure to Bt maize since 2003 (“GM ban long overdue, dozens ill and five deaths in the Philippines”, SiS 29).
It cannot be mere coincidence that similar Bt toxins from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis incorporated in the genetically modified crops are involved in all these cases; but the regulators have done nothing. Things are so bad that the European Commission levelled an accusation of bias towards the biotech industry against its own food safety regulatory body (“European Food Safety Authority criticised of GMO bias”, this series).
Grazing lands decline as commercial crops increase
Grazing lands in Warangal district have declined steeply as commercial crop cultivation expanded in recent years, and it has become customary for sheep and goats to be allowed to graze on crop residues after harvest.
This year, there have been several media reports of sharp increases in the deaths of sheep and goats after grazing in Bt cotton fields. There were similar reports in 2005, when complaints were lodged with the Joint Director of Agriculture by a few NGOs, but no action has resulted.
Between February and March 2006, the shepherds of Warangal district again reported high mortality in their flocks after grazing in harvested Bt cotton fields. Some shepherds reported to the animal husbandry department and requested confirmation on whether the deaths were due to grazing on Bt cotton.
Still getting no response, a fact-finding team of five members was constituted by the Andhra Pradesh Shepherds Union: two members from Anthra (NGO working on livestock issues), veterinary scientist Dr. Ramesh and a field researcher Mr. Apparoa; Mr. Jamalaiah, Secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Shepherds Union; and two scientists from the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture working on Bt cotton issues, Mr. S. Ramprasa and Mr. G. Rajashekar.
The team travelled through three mandals in Warangal district on 22 April 2006 and met with shepherds and farmers. The villages visited were Ippagudem in Ghanapur mandal, Valeru and Unkkucherla in Dharmasagaram mandal, and Maadpalli in Hasanparthi mandal.
Twenty-five percent of sheep dead within five to seven days
The Ippagudem village in Ghanapur mandal has 100 households belonging to the shepherd community. Forty shepherds and ten farmers attended the group meeting when the team visited. They said the deaths began after their sheep grazed on Bt cotton leaves or bolls. This year was the first time some of the shepherds and farmers cultivated Bt cotton hybrids, believing in the propaganda that they can get more yield and profit. They started grazing from the end of January to March. The deaths began within a week of continuous grazing on the Bt cotton crop residues. Mr. J. Parmesh, one of the shepherds got diarrhoea after consuming the affected sheep's meat.
The shepherds said that the sheep became “dull/depressed” after 2-3 days of grazing, started coughing with nasal discharge and developed red lesions in the mouth, became bloated and suffered blackish diarrhoea, and sometimes passed red urine. Death occurred within 5-7 days of grazing. Sheep from young lambs to adults of 1.5-2 years were affected.
The shepherds took their sheep to the government veterinary hospital in Warangal for post-mortem, some shepherds also performed their own post-mortem, as is often the practice of shepherds across Andhra Pradesh. They found black patches in the intestine and enlarged bile duct and black patches on the liver. The shepherds said that the Assistant Director of Animal Health Centre in Warangal told them these deaths appeared to be due to grazing on Bt cotton fields, as she has earlier seen such cases. She prescribed some medicines for the sick sheep, but very few sheep responded, and most died.
Of the 2 601 sheep that belonged to 42 shepherds, 651 sheep died, giving an average mortality rate of 25 percent.
A shepherd in another village, Akkapalli reported that he had cultivated Bt cotton the previous year and allowed his sheep to graze, which resulted in deaths. This year, while he still cultivated Bt cotton, he did not allow them to graze on it, and his sheep did not die.
On the way to Dharmasagaram mandal, the team spoke to a shepherd Shri Kochla Malliah, who has 100 sheep, but 5 died after grazing on Bt cotton crop residues. He reported that sheep had also died in adjoining villages Molakagudam, Kunipatti and Kondaparthi
More deaths and identical symptoms in other villages
Twenty-nine shepherds participated in the meeting in Valeru village in Dharmasagaram mandel. Sheep deaths occurred during February – March 2006. The symptoms described were identical to those reported in the previous village.
Of 2168 sheep owned by the 29 shepherds, 549 sheep died, again giving an average mortality rate of about 25 percent.
In the remaining villages, it was not possible to have a group meeting with the shepherds. But the team was informed that the sheep population is nearly 1 000 in Unkkucherla village, Dharmasagaram mandal, and 150 adult sheep and 70 lambs died within 4 days of grazing on Bt cotton fields between February and March 2006. In Maadipalli village Asanparthi mandal, there are 20 households rearing some 3 000 sheep, and nearly 400 died due to grazing on Bt-cotton fields from the second week of February through to March.
They took their animals to the Warangal veterinary hospital for post-mortem. The Assistant Director at the Animal Health Centre who conducted the post-mortem advised them to stop grazing their sheep on the Bt cotton fields, saying the deaths could be due to the Bt cotton, and prescribed some medicines for the affected sheep.
The team met with the Assistant Director who conducted the post-mortems. When questioned, she replied that while it appeared that the deaths occurred after grazing on Bt cotton fields, and could be due to the effects of Bt toxin, it was not possible to arrive at a definitive conclusion, as farmers also spray different types of insecticides and pesticides on their crops, and this factor confounds the observations. She also said there were no kits or other facilities available within the Department to enable her to arrive at a firm diagnosis that the deaths were due to Bt cotton.
When asked to see the post-mortem results/reports, she said she was not permitted to show them to the team, as permission of the Joint Director was needed. But the Joint Director was not present that day.
Demands for in-depth investigation and moratorium on Bt cotton
The team concludes that “The preliminary information gathered from meeting shepherds across 3 mandals, strongly suggests that the sheep mortality was due to a toxin, and most likely Bt toxin from the foliage.” They were impressed that shepherds from villages located at 20-25 km distance from one another, reported an identical history of grazing on the Bt cotton fields continuously, identical symptoms and death within 5-7 days of grazing exclusively on Bt cotton plant residue, primarily on young leaves and pods. The post-mortem symptoms, as observed by the shepherds, suggest “severe irritation of the intestines and associated organs (bile duct, liver) connected to the absorption and assimilation of food and processing of toxins.”
The team is calling for more “in-depth exhaustive investigation on the impact of Bt toxin on the local Indian livestock”, and a “complete moratorium on Bt cotton cultivation until conclusive results show that the Bt toxin is completely harmless”. Furthermore, they call for the shepherds who suffered losses to be compensated.
What is not yet clear from the report is whether all the sheep that did not fall ill or die also grazed on Bt cotton; if not, then the mortality rate is even higher than reported.
Mortality in Sheep Flocks after Grazing on Bt Cotton Fields – Warangal District, Andhra Pradesh. Report of the Preliminary Assessment April 2006, http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=6494
|200 dead cows found in Portage
By Associated Press
Town of Stockton — An investigation is under way after 200 dead cows were found in a field in the Town of Stockton.
The Portage County sheriff's office says the owner of the cattle has been working with a local veterinarian and it's believed the animals died from the IBR/BVD virus. The virus can cause respiratory and reproductive problems.
WSAW reports samples from the dead cows have been sent to Madison for testing.
Authorities say there is no threat to humans or other animals.
|Cold weather kills 10,000 heads
January 17, 2011
The Veterinary Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) announced about huge losses in cattle caused by the long cold spell in recent days.
The department stated the costly deaths occurred despite the best efforts of local authorities and people to save their livestock.
Following statistics at 4pm on January 16, total of 9,248 heads of cattle died in provinces including Lang Son, Yen Bai, Cao Bang, Bac Can, Ha Giang, Tuyen Quang, Son La, Quang Ninh, Hoa Binh, Lao Cai, Bac Giang, Lai Chau, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh.
Cao Bang province suffered the greatest losses, with 1,996 heads of cattle dead, followed by Lang Son (1,380 heads of cattle) and Son La (1,300 heads of cattle).
The Veterinary Department appointed delegations to cities and provinces to coordinate with local animal health departments to fight against hunger and chill for cattle.
Prime Minister requested the chairmen of provincial people’s committees in cities and provinces nationwide send task forces to closely control and actively use the local budget to support materials and expenditure for poor households and farmers.
The Ministry of Finance, in coordination with the MARD and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, was requested to carry out measures to guide, check and assist localities in fighting against cold weather and restoring production of cattle.
October 25, 2008
The Hereford and Normandy breed cows were discovered by the ranch manager in the field.
A veterinary expert who examined the carcases said they had been killed by lightning hitting the wire fence bordering the field where the animals were stood. The incident occurred in Valdez Chico, near Montevideo, Uruguay.
In September, 53 cattle were killed by lightning in Katosi, Uganda. They had been seeking shelter underneath trees, according to local reports.
Lightning hits the earth an average 100 times per second, or 8.6 million times a day.
Each spark of lightning can reach over five miles in length, soar to temperatures of approximately 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and contain 100 million electrical volts.
Source: The Telegraph
Livestock hit by lightning
|Mass fish deaths at Jervis Bay
January 18, 2011
TENS of thousands of fish have been discovered dead and dying at Jervis Bay, apparently victims of The Big Wet.
Weeks of heavy rain is feared to have sparked a major bloom of red algae on the northern and eastern shores of the bay.
The algae strips saltwater of its oxygen and can cause fish to suffocate.
Despite red algae being investigated as the possible cause, The Daily Telegraph understands testing of the Jervis Bay waters has not revealed the severely depleted oxygen levels which would be expected - and would explain the deaths.
Most of the fish kill has happened within the Jervis Bay Marine Park.
Slicks of dead fish between 3 and 6km long have been reported by locals near Callala Bay, Hare Bay and Long Nose Point.
More dead fish have been seen sunk dead on the bottom. The victims include flathead, whiting, mullet, luderick, catfish, damsel fish, old wives, ling and an angel shark.
Fisheries Officers from the state government's super ministry, Industry & Investment NSW, were first alerted to the dead fish several days ago, a spokesman said.
The fish kills have continued and I&I NSW warned locals and holiday makers not to eat any dead or dying fish they find.
There have been no signs that seabirds or marine mammals have been affected, the spokesman said.
Source: Daily Telegraph
|Dirty water leads to fish deaths
January 08, 2011
THE smell of hundreds of rotting Murray cod hangs over the banks of the Murray River.
Ten billion litres of environmental water will be released into the lower Goulburn River in a bid to clean up the river and protect native fish, the Department of Sustainability and Environment said yesterday.
But locals say the move is too little too late.
People at Mildura and Robinvale are reporting fish up to 1m floating belly up down the river and crayfish climbing up river banks to breathe.
Jodie Ross, who runs the general store in Wemen, southeast of Mildura, said the black water started in Swan Hill and reached Wemen on New Year's Day.
She said the dying fish were a devastating sight for river communities.
"We are seeing hundreds of dead fish floating by and even the live ones are coming up to the top as though they are very weak," she said.
Ms Ross said the river bank was lined with dead shrimp and yabbies.
"Crayfish are normally buried deep in the mud this time of year and they are climbing up the bank because they can't breathe; they are baking on banks of the river," she said.
Mark Bailey, of Goulburn Murray River Water, said the black water was caused by the rapid decay of leaves and twigs accumulated during floods. The decay caused low oxygen levels in the water and suffocated fish and other aquatic life.
The Murray Darling Basin Authority released fresh water from irrigation systems and environmental water from storages before Christmas in an attempt to dilute the black water.
NSW authorities are also carrying out an emergency fish rescue in a bid to move native fish.
But Ms Ross said authorities had acted too late. "The black water has wiped out the Murray River, all the fish are dead," she said.
Mr Bailey said the river would begin to rejuvenate within weeks. But Ms Ross said the effects would be felt for years.
Source: Adelaide Now
|Hundreds of dead fish 'a natural
QMI Agency January 4, 2011
SARNIA, Ont. - Hundreds of dead fish that washed up on shore in the north end of the St. Clair River is a natural occurrence and not the result of a chemical spill, a government officials say.
Ministry of Natural Resources spokesperson Jolanta Kowalski confirmed that both the MNR and environment ministry were alerted to a massive die-off of gizzard shad fish late last week.
“We think it’s a natural occurrence,” Kowalski said. “They died off as a result of temperature shock because we had that really warm weekend ... and then it quickly cooled off again.”
Kowalski said such die-offs are not unusual but it typically happens in the spring.
Only one species was affected, further supporting the idea it was a natural occurrence, she said.
“There was nothing to indicate that it was man-made.”
Source: Toronto Sun
|Researchers Find "Alarming"
Decline in Bumblebees
January 5, 2011
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Four previously abundant species of bumblebee are close to disappearing in the United States, researchers reported on Monday in a study confirming that the agriculturally important bees are being affected worldwide.
They documented a 96 percent decline in the numbers of the four species, and said their range had shrunk by as much as 87 percent. As with honeybees, a pathogen is partly involved, but the researchers also found evidence the bees are vulnerable to inbreeding caused by habitat loss.
"We provide incontrovertible evidence that multiple Bombus species have experienced sharp population declines at the national level," the researchers reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, calling the findings "alarming."
"These are one of the most important pollinators of native plants," Sydney Cameron of the University of Illinois, Urbana, who led the study, said in a telephone interview.
In recent years, experts have documented a disappearance of bees in what is widely called colony collapse disorder, blamed on many factors including parasites, fungi, stress, pesticides and viruses. But most studies have focused on honeybees.
Bumblebees are also important pollinators, Cameron said, but are far less studied. Bumblebees pollinate tomatoes, blueberries and cranberries, she noted.
"The 50 species (of bumblebees) in the United States are traditionally associated with prairies and with high alpine vegetations," she added.
"Just as important -- they land on a flower and they have this behavior called buzz pollination that enables them to cause pollen to fly off the flower."
This is the way to pollinate tomatoes, Cameron said -- although smaller bees can accomplish the same effect if enough cluster on a single flower.
Several reports have documented the disappearance of bumblebees in Europe and Asia, but no one had done a large national study in the Americas.
Source: ABC News
|Hundreds of dead seals in Labrador
January 17, 2011
A conservation officer with the area's Inuit government estimated late last week that hundreds of adult and young seals have died in the area between Hopedale and Makkovik this winter.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is testing the carcasses, but Nunatsiavut conservation officer Ian Winters said many people in the area believe DFO hasn't acted quickly enough.
"I think they should have been up here earlier, if you're asking me. A lot of people said the same thing. So, maybe it's not on top of their agenda," he said.
Usually at this time of year seals are on sea ice south of Hopedale, said Winters, but he said there is very little ice there now.
Last month, people in northern Labrador found the bodies of dead seal pups on the coast.
At the time, a federal seal researcher said the early birth of seal pups in Labrador may be an indication the area's seal population has grown too large.
DFO researcher Garry Stenson said that seal population growth could lead to reproductive problems.
"What you expect in a population that is starting to regulate itself are things like lower reproductive rates and variable reproductive rates, but also higher pup mortality and also higher juvenile mortality," he said Monday in St. John's.
Stenson said the harp seal population of Atlantic Canada is now at between eight and nine million. A 2004 assessment of seal stocks estimated the harp seal population in the area at between 4.6 and 7.2 million.
Stenson said the DFO received five reports of seals giving birth on the coast of Labrador in December, although the nomadic sea mammals normally give birth in late February or early March.
He said the early births are happening on land rather than ice floes and it's unlikely the newborn pups will survive.
Source: CBC News
|Thousands of dead octopuses
wash up on Portugal beach
January 03, 2010
Thousands of dead octopuses have washed up on a beach in northern Portugal, in what is being called an environmental disaster.
They cover a 5-mile stretch of Vila Nova de Gaia beach - no reason has yet been found for their appearance.
The authorities have warned the public not to eat them.
Source: BBC News
March 25, 2009
Sadly, Few Survivors
The CBC reports: "More than 87 whales and five bottlenose dolphins beached early Monday in Hamelin Bay in the state of Western Australia. Seventy-two whales and one dolphin died before they could be rescued, officials said." 11 long-finned pilot whales have survived and were returned to the ocean, but sadly what appears to be 6 of them have re-beached themselves and the last news are that 2 have died.
The 4 others that are stranded were, according to the latest news, in deteriorating condition. The AP writes:
Veterinarians were being sent to euthanize the ailing animals, which were spotted by airplane on a beach about four miles (six kilometers) away from where a pod of 10 had been released a day earlier.Mass Beachings More Common Than You Might Think
What's really sad (and shocking) about all this is that this is just one incident among many. This was the 5th mass-beaching in Australia in as many months; nearly 500 whales have died during that time.
Wikipedia has an overview of the possible causes of these beachings. If you are interested in learning more, you can check it out here
Source: Tree Hugger
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