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The Mysterious Death of a Brief of Pelicans Shocks Conservationists

Some 750 pelicans have been found dead in a UNESCO World Heritage site in northern Senegal that provides refuge for millions of migratory birds, the country’s parks director said. Rangers found the pelicans on January 23 in the Djoudj bird sanctuary, a remote pocket of wetland near the border with Mauritania and a resting place for birds that cross the Sahara Desert into West Africa each year. An unverified video published on local media showed hundreds of pelican carcasses scattered on a beach, muddy and darker than their normally eye-catching white. “We took some samples for screening and we hope in the near future to know what caused the death of the pelicans,” Bocar Thiam, director of Senegal’s parks, said in an interview. The sanctuary is a transit place for about 350 species of birds but only pelicans were found dead, he said. Of those killed, 740 were juveniles and 10 were adults. Authorities have closed the park and ordered the incineration of the dead birds as a precaution. This month, Senegal reported an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu on a poultry farm in the Thies region about 120 miles south, resulting in the culling of about 100,000 chickens.