Contaminated Sardines Caused Pelicans’ Death

February 23, 2007

The food chain took a turn for the fatal in a recent case of 500 brown pelicans found dead on an islet in the Pacific Gulf of Nicoya.

Scientists have discovered that these birds ate sardines contaminated with toxic algae, the daily La Nación reported.

The sardines consumed algae called Diatomea, which appears in Pacific waters and can kill pelicans but is not dangerous to humans, according to Public Health Minister María Luisa Avila.

“Fortunately, this is not an infectious disease,” Avila told the daily, citing reports from scientists at Universidad Nacional (UNA) in Heredia, north of San José, who had been researching the pelicans’ death.

The dead birds were found by Costa Rican Coast Guard officials and taken to the university laboratory Feb. 9 (TT, Feb. 16) Dead pelicans continued to be seen in Pacific waters near SanLucasIsland as baby birds whose mothers were killed by the toxic sardines are starving to death, according to La Nación. Their carcasses are being eaten by crocodiles and carnivorous birds.

 

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