Update on Dalmatian pelican mass mortality caused by avian flu at Prespa and other wetlands

Update on Dalmatian pelican mass mortality caused by avian flu at Prespa and other wetlands

Two more removal operations of dead pelicans were carried out this week at Prespa National Park. On April 11 and today, April 15, a total of 277 Dalmatian pelican (DP) carcasses were collected from Lesser Prespa Lake’s colonies and roosting sites. Likewise in the previous operations, the carcasses were transported to a fixed-facility incinerator, that appropriately handles such infectious waste. 1,420 DP carcasses have been collected so far at Prespa, while the tragic death toll in the world’s largest DP colony is around 1,600 adult birds.

The most demanding operation was conducted at the pelican colonies in Vromolimni, a swallow area with difficult access. SPP’s amphibian machine had a key role in this mission, as it was used to cut reed and dredge a narrow channel, to give access to the boats who carried the carcasses. 110 Dalmatian pelican carcasses were removed from this site, together with 3 great crested grebes.

Apart from DPs, Vromolimni hosts the largest part of the Prespa great white pelican (GWP) colony, and already a few hundreds have arrived from their sub-Saharan wintering grounds. Fortunately, we have had no signs of GWPs being affected so far. We must, however, be cautious, as there have been GWP deaths recorded in other Greek wetlands, although very few.

At last, it seems that the avian flu outbreak is subsiding, as very few new deaths were recorded in the last week, both at Prespa and elsewhere in Greece. A total of 2,136 DP and 6 GWP deaths have been recorded up to now in 12 wetlands of northern and central Greece. Almost 80% of the dead birds have been removed from the wetlands.

Looking at other countries with pelican populations in the Black Sea/Mediterranean flyway: Our Romanian colleagues confirmed mass mortality in three DP colonies in and around the Danube Delta, totaling 97 deaths. Overall, 115 DP deaths have been recorded in the Albanian, Montenegrin and Romanian colonies up to now, while fortunately the Bulgarian and Turkish colonies remain unaffected, as far as we know.

At the same time, in the severely hit Prespa colony, some hundreds of DPs and GWPs are currently nesting or engaging in courtship behaviors, signs offering promise of new life and better days.

The SPP continues to monitor the phenomenon closely and we will provide further updates.

For further information, you may contact
Giorgos Catsadorakis catsadorakis@spp.gr and
Olga Alexandrou o.alexandrou@spp.gr

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