Saturday, 8 January 2011

Thousands of turtle doves drop dead from the sky in Italy in latest bizarre mass animal deaths.

Thousands of turtle doves have rained down from the skies on an Italian town in the latest mass animal deaths sweeping the world.

The bodies of the birds, with a mysterious blue tinge to their beaks, crashed down on roofs of homes and cars in Faenza, near Ravenna in northern Italy.

For the last five days wildlife experts and officers from the forestry commission have picked up more than 1,000 turtle doves as well as other birds including pigeons.

Today alone 300 corpses were recovered with all of them having a blue tinge to their beaks which scientists say indicates poisoning or hypoxia which is lack of oxygen which can confuse animals.

The incident comes after a series of similar cases across the world in the United States and Sweden.

It is not just birds that have been affected with millions of dead fish also washing up on river banks and coastlines in Arkansas and Texas as well as in New Zealand.

The turtle dove case is the largest incident to have hit Europe so far.

In Sweden 50 jackdaws were found dead - and Italian officials said they expected results from tests on Monday.

Most of the birds have been found around an industrial estate on the outskirts of Faenza but others have also been found closer to the centre in trees and on roads and pavements.

Today Massimo Bolognesi, of the local World Wildlife Federation, said: "We first started getting reports on Sunday and since then they have been coming in every day.

"We have collected more than 1,000 turtle doves corpses but there is also the odd pigeon as well and all of them have this blue tint to their beak which could indicate poisoning or hypoxia.

"Tests are being carried out on the bodies by the local forestry commission and we should get the results next week but it's the numbers that make this such a notable event and for the moment it is a mystery."

Mr Bolognesi added that the majority of the birds had been found close to the industrial estate and especially close to a factory that produces animal feed.

He said: "To connect it to the industrial estate would be too easy - it's been there for years and although we have found the odd bird there from time to time the numbers have never been as high as this.

"There is also the possibility that they could have been affected elsewhere and just gathered here to die there could be many factors here that we just don't know about."

Mr Bolognesi added that the dead birds were also a health risk and asked people who found them in the streets not to put them in bins but to call the local authorities.

Dr Anna Mazzini, of the local forestry commission who is carrying out the tests, said: "We are carrying out tests and we will get the results next week. To link it to other cases around the world is far fetched it is just a coincidence.

"My opinion is that it is probably food poisoning which can cause the beaks to turn blue and the fact it is mainly turtle doves makes me think it is an illness or reaction specific to that breed."

Today one local newspaper covering the incident wrote: "Let's hope it is poisoning or an illness because that would be easier to deal with than it being a sign the world is coming to an end."

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