Update on Dalmatian pelican mass mortality due to avian influenza at Prespa National Park – NW Greece
Herewith we would like to inform you about the development of the avian influenza outbreak in the Dalmatian pelican colony of Lesser Prespa Lake. The number of deaths is sadly still increasing, but efforts to collect the carcasses commenced this week, and thus it is expected that with the reduction of the viral load on the colony, the spread of infection to other pelicans will be reduced.
According to the last drone count conducted by the SPP on 14/3, there were 1120 dead Dalmatian pelicans on and around the nesting islands of Lesser Prespa Lake. At the same time there are currently around 500 alive Dalmatian pelicans in full breeding plumage that arrived in the area in the previous days and have started nesting, while hundreds more are expected, though the bad weather of the last two weeks appears to have delayed them. Great white pelicans will also start arriving in large numbers in the following weeks.
The large scale and demanding operation of carcass removal initiated yesterday and is progressing well. Already 445 carcasses have been removed from the wetland and depending on weather conditions (expected snowfall tomorrow) it will continue during the weekend. Carcass removal progressed rapidly in the first two days, as the operations initiated with the largest nesting islands where hundreds of carcasses lie. In the following days this rate will be reduced, as the smaller nesting islands are less accessible and also there are many dead pelicans floating in the lake and inside the reedbeds, which are also harder to remove.
The collection and management of the carcasses at Lesser Prespa Lake is coordinated by the Regional Authority of Western Macedonia in collaboration with various bodies including the army and local veterinary services, the Municipality of Prespa, the Prespa National Park Management Authority and the SPP, under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Environment.
Concurrently, mass mortality in Dalmatian pelicans is recorded in more and more wetlands of northern and central Greece, with another 200 losses so far, while the first two deaths of great white pelicans were also documented at Kerkini Dam-Lake. All four Dalmatian pelican colonies of the eastern sub-population in Greece (Lesser Prespa Lake, Kerkini Dam-Lake, Karla Reservoir, Chimaditida Lake) have been affected, while the two colonies of the western sub-population (Amvrakikos wetlands, Messolonghi lagoons) fortunately remain intact.
Τhe outbreak is still in progress and unfortunately the weather is still cold, at least at Prespa, favoring the survival of the AI virus. Thus, it is likely that more pelicans will die, yet the removal of the bulk of the carcasses by next week will hopefully diminish the death rate. Nonetheless, we continue to monitor it closely and we will provide updates.
For further information, please do not hesitate to contact:
Giorgos Catsadorakis (Chairman, Pelican Specialist Group (Old World) /WI-IUCN SSC)
firstname.lastname@example.org and Olga Alexandrou email@example.com.