Dead birds
(Photo : Screenshot from Down to Earth's Youtube Channel)
Officials suspect that the high salinity killed the birds.

At least 2,000 birds from various species were found dead on the country's largest inland lake. And what caused it? Officials have no definite answer.

The dead birds were first reported on Sunday by tourists who are visiting the Sambhar Lake, located in the city of Jaipur, Rajasthan. Since then, these carcasses have scattered all over the area, said Sanjay Kaushik, a senior forest official.

Vikas Choudhary, a photographer from the Down to Earth magazine, said that carcasses can be found even at 12 to 15 km away from the lake. He also suspected that the total number might reach 5,000.

Abhinav Vaishnav, a local bird watcher, said that he has never seen mass deaths like this before.

The dead birds were collected in a truck by clean-up workers and were buried in deep pits located near the water.

The lake is included on the Central Asian Flyway, which is a route of migratory birds. According to the report, at least 20 migratory species were among the dead birds.

But what caused the bird kill?

Wildlife officials still could not pinpoint what exactly killed the birds. But they have sent samples of water to Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh for analysis. According to Ashok Sharma, joint director of the State Disease Diagnostic Center, the high salinity and alkaline levels in the water might have caused this.

Sample carcasses were also sent to a pathology lab on the same location. Chief Forest Conservator Arun Prasad said that the results were expected to be released over the weekend.

Bird flu was ruled out because the problem was only encountered in this area. Birds were still flocking on nearby wetlands, Prasad also said.

Sambhar Lake, which means salt, has quite high salinity that it is not suitable for many species. Yet yearly, various migratory birds like flamingos, storks, sandpipers, and redshanks flock in the area for forage. This place is especially popular for flamingos due to spirulina algae that flourish in the area once the salinity has reached a medium degree, according to a local tourism site.

The Danger of High Salinity to Public Health and Wildlife

High salinity means a high concentration of dissolved salt in a body of water. While the definition is quite simple, its impact is not. 

In the United States, road salts were used to de-ice streets and sidewalks. Unfortunately, the said substance, which mostly contains sodium chloride, ferrocyanide, and various other elements, is a water contaminant. 

Road salt might also enter the freshwater streams and affect the wildlife, as many of them cannot handle the extra salty water. 

Unfortunately, Izaak Walton League of America, the country's leading advocate on responsible road salt usage, reported that the waterways in eight major metropolitan areas have a high level of chloride, signaling a misuse of road salt.

Meanwhile, the other half of the compound, sodium, is bad for people with hypertension.

Road salt is also dangerous to your pets, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Aside from getting sick from ingestion, exposing their paws to road salt can cause irritation and wounds that may lead to infection.