Lake Tuz (Salt Lake), a closed basin lake in the Central Anatolian province of Konya, is the second largest lake in Turkey. It houses many endemic species ranging from birds, bugs, mammals, and plant species. In 2000 the lake was declared a protected biodiverse area. It is also a temporary home for many migratory birds — including flamingos. The lake is suitable for incubation and feeding and also allows flamingos to nurse their offspring without threat from predators. The smaller lakes nearby are a source of food and nutrition for these birds.
Because of this, every year in March, thousands of flamingos migrate to the south of Lake Tuz, earning it the moniker “flamingo paradise.” According to the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation, in 2018 a total of 12,746 flamingos hatched here and by 2019 this number reached 20,381 flamingos. Each year, at least 10,000 flaminglets are born here. But this year's migration season faced an unexpected obstacle — some 5,000 baby flamingos were found dead.
Some attributed the deaths to a drought that has been plaguing Central Anatolia — a particularly dry area that has been further pressured by global warming. This year, Lake Tuz waters receded by almost 10 kilometers. Some flamingos who hatched weren’t able to reach the water and died of malnutrition. Mehmet Emin Öztürk, a wildlife photographer, told TRT:
This province resembled a paradise for birds. When I came this year, I saw hell instead. Hundreds, if not thousands of flamingos were dead, and the bird population drastically decreased. When I came to this area before, it was a wetland, but now, it is dusty. Almost 10 kilometers of water has receded. This is a great alarm.
Others have cited the country's agricultural practices as the reason for this year's tragedy. The dams placed on nearby canals divert water away from the lake, and underground water sources are often overexploited. Speaking to Demirören Haber Ajansı, the Aksaray Photographers Association’s vice president Fahri Tunç said:
It is said that there is no water left in the water canals in the area, but that is not the case. Rather, they are blocked by erected sets, and through them, waters are redirected to the crop fields. Thus, no water reaches Lake Tuz, and the animals don’t have access to food or water. I am calling on authorities: we should be sensitive to this topic.
Tunç described the death of birds a massacre not only for flamingos but other species too.
In an interview with Hurriyet Daily News, Turkey’s Nature Association President Dicle Kılıç agreed that it is the “wrong agricultural and irrigation policies,” to blame, rather than the drought.
Gölü besleyen kanallarda su bittiği için diyorlarmış. ANLIK GÖRÜNTÜ. Kanallarda su var. Sadece önüne set çekilip göle gitmesi engellenmiş durumda. Videoda görünüyor. Yukarıdaki bütün görüntüler ve bu, arkadaşımız Fahri Tunç tarafından kaydedilmiş ve bizlere ulaştırılmıştır. pic.twitter.com/gPC49a944c
— Emin Yoğurtcuoğlu (@birddetectiveTR) July 13, 2021
It is not because the canals feeding the lake have dried out. This is from the scene. There is water in the canals. It is just this water is being blocked from reaching the lake. You can see in the video. All this footage was sent to us by our friend Fahri Tunç.
According to the analysis conducted by the veterinary school of Selcuk University (Konya), there is no sign of poisoning. With less water and increased concentration ratio in the water, we observe deaths of flamingos which are unable to fly. I want to stress that there is no direct or indirect connection between this incident and the wells in the area or the agricultural irrigation.
The Governorship of Konya published a statement on its website, saying that the governorship created a commission for investigating the mass death of flamingos, and promised to find solutions.
Eski Yeni pic.twitter.com/OWBfCZV7ZU
— Gönenç Gürkaynak (@GurkaynakGonenc) July 16, 2021
Old and new.