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| Last Updated:14/11/2018

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Pesticides may have killed birds in Sultanpur bird sanctuary

NEW DELHI: Bird flu may not have been the cause behind the deaths of 47 birds at Sultanpur sanctuary in Gurgaon recently. Officials now suspect something more lethal.
Biologists and Haryana forest department officials said there is a high probability that the birds died of pesticide poisoning from neighboring fields. The sanctuary was reopened after veterinarians assured the department that the birds did not show any symptoms of bird flu and there were no deaths after that.
"These birds feed on seeds, insects, fish and grain. They often fly to agricultural fields nearby for food and this could have led to poisoning. We are not sure which pesticide may have killed them. Another reason being assessed is the sudden and extreme cold on January 9, 10 and 11," a senior Haryana forest department official said.
The birds that died included 36 Eurasian Coots, one Spot-billed Duck, one Common Babbler and nine Common Moorhens.
"Coot, Moorhen and Spot-billed Duck feed on aquatic vegetation and small aquatic creatures. The Common Babbler is an insectivore. While it is not impossible for them to have avian flu, the probability seems to be low," Raman Kumar, who works on bird community ecology, said.
Experts, who have been visiting the park, said the issue should be investigated further and viscera should be sent for examination. "This does not look like bird flu because it is found mainly among migratory birds. Even Eurasian Coot has now become like a resident bird. They are found in large numbers in Ladakh. The other reason is that bird flu spreads immediately especially among poultry. But no cases were reported from neighbouring areas which have many poultry farms. Sometimes the water being released to agricultural fields contains poisonous substance. It should be investigated," Faiyaz A Khudsar, biologist and scientist in charge, Yamuna Biodiversity Park, said. The agricultural fields surrounding the sanctuary have mustard and wheat crops. Birders like Nikhil Devasar, who visit the sanctuary frequently, are certain that the birds died of pesticide poisoning. "I am sure it is pesticide. It is regularly sprinkled on farms. We have asked farmers to stop it, but they do not," he said.
Samples from birds were sent to the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases in Bhopal to test for the highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1), and a final report is awaited.
In 2000, there were reports of many peacocks dying after consuming pesticide-laced corn in Morena, Madhya Pradesh.