Larnaca, Cyprus (AP) — Cypriot conservationists urge the authorities to extend the fishing ban and expand the entire coastal salt lake network because there are concerns that the migration of flamingos may consume a lethal amount of lead shot pellets.
Martin Hellicar, head of the Cyprus Bird Organization, said that flamingos are in danger of swallowing small particles lying on the lake bed when they eat. Like other birds, flamingos swallow small pebbles to help digestion, but cannot distinguish between pebbles and lead particles.
“Last year, we lost dozens of flamingos,”
Cyprus is a key stop on the migratory route of many species of birds flying from Africa to Europe. Larnaca Salt Lake is a wetland network of four lakes, usually from the cold climate to the southern coast of the eastern Mediterranean island countries, and can host up to 15,000 flamingos. They spend the winter and leave in March. Other waterfowl that frequently visit the lake include ducks, waders and seagulls.
Hunting is prohibited in most areas of Salt Lake, but hunters are still allowed to shoot ducks at the southern end of the network.
The Government’s Game and Animal Protection Bureau stated that in the first two months of last year, 96 flamingos were found dead in the Larnaca Salt Lake wetlands due to lead poisoning. The Cypriot veterinary service officer Panayiotis Constantinou, who conducted an autopsy on the flamingos, said the lead in the particles poisoned the birds.
A large number of deaths were mainly attributed to heavy rain two years ago, which stirred up sediments in the lake and dispelled the embedded lead bombs.
Nearly 18 years ago, a sports shooting range near the northern end of the lake was closed, and the authorities organized a cleanup of the lead pellets at the bottom of the lake.
But Helikal said that the cleanup is clearly incomplete. A study funded by the European Union is underway to determine where large amounts of lead pellets remain so that they can be removed. Helikar said the preliminary results of the study showed that the lead content in the southern end of the wetland was “high”, and continued duck hunting there could complicate the problem.
He said: “The problem is obvious.” “The use of flamingos and other birds in this area is indeed dangerous.”
Alexandros Loizides, an official of the Cyprus Hunting Federation, expressed disagreement. He said that due to the limited number of hunters, hunting in the 200-meter northern zone is not a problem. He said that he did not find any flamingo deaths in the area, nor did he find any pollution problems that endangered wildlife from the pesticide and fertilizer runoff from nearby farms.
Leuzdes said: “I think hunting in certain parts of the lake has little impact.” “For hunters, it would be a shame to lose the only area allowed to hunt near the wetlands.”
Cyprus has banned the use of lead pellets near wetlands for many years. A similar EU-wide ban took effect last month, but environmentalists believe the law has not been adequately implemented.
Pantelis Hadjiyeros, head of Game and Fauna Service, said that banning hunting in the area is more important than persuading hunters to stop using lead-cored shells.
Hajieros told the Associated Press: “People should be encouraged to ban the use of lead shot near wetlands, and only allow the use of steel shot.”