Friday 10 July 2020

Mass seabird deaths baffle researchers, thousands wash up on Dutch beaches

Photo: Depositphotos.com

As many as 20,000 guillemots have died in Dutch waters in the past few weeks, baffling researchers, broadcaster NOS said on Tuesday.

The sea birds, which breed on cliffs and live on fish and crustaceans, are being washed up dead on Dutch shores from the Wadden Islands to Zeeland. In addition, hundreds of weakened birds have been taken to animal shelters for treatment.

‘The death total is very high. We have not seen such mass deaths since the 1980s and 1990s,’ marine biologist Mardik Leopold from Wageningen University told NOS.

No-one yet knows the cause of the deaths. Some have speculated that plastic from the hundreds of containers which fell from a cargo ship last month could be responsible. Others have suggested paraffin washed up on the beaches could be to blame.

The sick animals have blood in their droppings and this could be caused by mass starvation, Leopold said. ‘When they are starving, the birds’ organs are consumed by their bodies,’ the researcher told NOS.

However, he said, the North Sea close to the Dutch coast is currently rich in sprat and young herring, making food shortages unlikely.

Next week Leopold will begin examining the bodies of around 100 dead birds which he has collected over the past few days in an effort to determine the cause of death.

In the meantime, the guillemot population in the North Sea numbers around two million, he said.

Thank you for donating to DutchNews.nl

The DutchNews.nl team would like to thank all the generous readers who have made a donation in recent weeks. Your financial support has helped us to expand our coverage of the coronavirus crisis into the evenings and weekends and make sure you are kept up to date with the latest developments.

DutchNews.nl has been free for 14 years, but without the financial backing of our readers, we would not be able to provide you with fair and accurate news and features about all things Dutch. Your contributions make this possible.

If you have not yet made a donation, but would like to, you can do so via Ideal, credit card or Paypal.