Over the past two weeks, thousands of baby flamingos have died in Turkey’s Lake Tuz. The saline lake, located in central Turkey, is usually home to nearly 10,000 newly hatched baby flamingos each year. However, a recent drought, which environmental experts attribute to agricultural irrigation methods and the climate crisis, left the lake partially dried up and thousands of baby flamingos dead.
Only half the usual number of flamingo eggs hatched in this year’s colony in Lake Tuz. Many of the flamingo chicks that did hatch then died from a lack of water. Recent drone footage of the lake shows a disturbing mass graveyard of flamingos, their bodies partially buried in the dried mud.
Fahri Tunc, an environmentalist and wildlife photographer, told Reuters an irrigation canal had stopped funneling water to Lake Tuz in order to be redirected for farming. As a result, there wasn’t enough water for the flamingos. The demand for farming water in the region has increased in the past year, with a report from TEMA, a Turkish environmental foundation, finding it exceeded supply by 30 percent. “It is a sin we are all committing,” Tunc said.
However, not everyone agrees on the cause of the flamingos’ deaths. Bekir Pakdemirli, Turkey’s agriculture minister, denied that agriculture was to blame. “I want to stress that there is no direct or indirect connection between this incident and the wells in the area or the agricultural irrigation,” Pakdemirli told Reuters. He added that “necessary measures” had been taken, though didn’t elaborate on what those measures were. Dicle Tuba Kilic, president of the Turkish NGO the Nature Association, disagreed, telling Reuters that changing the region’s agricultural irrigation methods is the only way to prevent these mass flamingo deaths.
Either way, the impact of climate change is becoming increasingly undeniable: Birds are dying. Polar bears could become extinct in the next 80 years. Our largest ice shelves are breaking apart and wildfires are getting worse. Last year’s bushfires in Australia left an estimated one billion animals dead, with experts saying climate change played a significant role in the severity of the fires. These flamingos’ recent deaths in Turkey are yet another reminder that the climate crisis isn’t just impending — it’s already here.