Cause remains unknown

Mass gull deaths continue at Lake Dukan

DUKAN — An ongoing mass death of gulls at Lake Dukan in Sulaymaniyah has entered its third day, with thousands reported dead. The alarming situation has spread beyond the initial area, affecting more marine life.

Hama Shwan Barznji, director of the environment in Raparin, told 964media about collaborative efforts with the Sulaymaniyah environmental team to investigate the cause.

“We have formed a committee and are on the ground at the affected sites, trying to determine whether the mass die-off is due to a virus, climate change, activities related to fish farming in the area, or deliberate human actions,” Barznji said.

Local authorities remain uncertain about the cause of a significant die-off affecting wildlife. However, the large number of deaths has endangered the survival of thousands of little gulls, chicks and eggs.

Khasraw Mohammad, spokesperson for the Raparin Forest and Environment Police, described the situation as an “environmental catastrophe” that continues to escalate. “Thousands of gulls have died, and the deaths are ongoing,” Mohammad said.

Initial veterinary findings suggest a viral cause for the die-off, but, as Mohammad noted, the exact type of virus and its characteristics are still under investigation, pending results from the Erbil laboratory.

Efforts to reach Muhsin Abdulla, director of veterinary in Raparin, for comments on whether the disease has affected other birds and wildlife in the area were unsuccessful.

Raparin health authorities have issued warnings advising against any visits to the affected areas by the public or non-professional entities until the nature of the disease is officially identified and safety can be assured.

The picturesque Dukan Lake and its islands, known for their gull presence, now face a significant environmental threat during the hatching season. It has prompted immediate segregation measures to protect healthy wildlife.

Bnwar Rizgar, a member of the Iraqi Water Protectors Team, highlighted another potential environmental hazard that might contribute to wildlife fatalities. “Unfortunately, oil spills often contribute to sudden wildlife deaths. It is crucial that these gulls are investigated thoroughly to identify the underlying causes,” Rizgar said.

This environmental alert follows an incident in March when two oil tankers collided in the Dukan district, causing oil to leak into the water system. This accident led to a temporary halt of the Dukan-Sulaymaniyah Water Project for two days, exacerbating the risk of pollution and its cascading effects on local ecosystems.