Over 100 vultures drop from the sky

The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) says it is unable to identify any environmental reasons why more than 100 black vultures (Coragyps atratus) died in West Trinidad on Monday.

The EMA said it is also working on the theory that the birds may have been feeding on the carcass of an animal which had been poisoned.

“We can’t identify an environmental cause as such that they were exposed to. There were 150 birds, we estimated. There was nothing else in the vicinity. We have been liaising with the Poultry Surveillance Unit, which is part of the National Disease Centre, to see if it was a case of the avian flu,”  EMA chief executive officer Dr. Joth Singh told the Trinidad Guardian newspaper.

But he said preliminary tests had shown avian flu had not killed the birds.

“That was not the cause and there is speculation that they may have been poisoned, that they were poisoned by an animal or carcass that they ate. We are trying to eliminate the causes and we have not found any chemical spills or seen any anywhere,” he said.

A member of the environmental activist group, Papa Bois Conservation, said the birds showed signs of poisoning with foam leaking out of their beaks and their talons curling up.

Stephen Broadbridge said the deaths follow the apparent release of poison into the Marianne River in Blanchiseusse, south east of here last week, killing a significant number of fishes.

Late last month, a number of dogs on the outskirts of the capital were found poisoned.

“This is criminal. If someone is found to be responsible, that person should face legal consequences, because the fact is that if the birds have been poisoned, then that poison can be introduced into our eco-system and end up getting back to humans.

“We are part of the food chain. And when you poison birds, they can fall anywhere, including the ocean, and be eaten by fish that we consume,” Broadbridge told reporters, adding that the apparent killing of the birds was also “terribly cruel” as most of the animals would have suffered for long periods before dying.

The dead birds were found in Chaguaramas and according to a statement issued by the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA) investigations are being carried out to determine the cause.

“Following the sightings, the  Veterinary Public Health Unit of the Ministry of Health, the Poultry Surveillance Unit of the Ministry of Food Production, Environmental Management Authority (EMA) and Forestry Division were all alerted and samples of the carcasses have been taken for testing. We will advise later of the test results,” it said.

The dead birds are being bagged and insulated in large metal bins.