A severe drought in Turkey’s Lake Tuz has led to the death of thousands of baby flamingos. Environmentalists say the climate crisis is to blame, as well as agricultural irrigation.
Lake Tuz – which means Salt Lake in Turkish – is one of the largest hypersaline lakes in the world, with a surface area of 1,665km2 (643 sq mi). Approximately 10,000 baby flamingos are born there every year.
But this year, only around 5,000 hatched. Many of those who did died soon after.
The lake, which is sometimes a vibrant pink colour, had dried up. Observer for Yahoo! News, Istem Donmez, said the lake resembled a desert – a sight which was ‘very sad’.
“There were no live flamingos, we only saw dead birds,” he said. “The water of the lake was all gone and there wasn’t even a reflection of water when you take a photo. In various places, there were dead flamingos, both large and small, on the bed of the lake.”
Environmentalist and wildlife photographer Fahri Tunç spoke to Reuters about the flamingo deaths. Tunç explained that the water supplies that typically run into Lake Tuz have been redirected for farming.
“This is the irrigation canal that comes from Konya. It needs to deliver water to Lake Tuz. As you can see, the water is not coming through. It stopped,” Tunç said.
“It is a sin we are all committing.”
Professor Doganay Tolunay of Istanbul University spoke to the Milliyet newspaper about water scarcity. He warned that precipitation levels are dangerously low in Anatolia, which is where Lake Tuz is located.
“Crops failed to grow due to lack of rainfall. A serious water and drought crisis await us,” he said.
The drought preceded severe flash flooding that has taken the lives of hundreds of people in Europe and China.
Both flooding and droughts are a symptom of climate change, which is driven by human activity. In fact, according to NASA, humans have been influencing global weather patterns for nearly a century.
Ben Cook is a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University in New York City. He said: “Climate change is not just a future problem.”
“This shows it’s already affecting global patterns of drought, hydroclimate, trends, variability — it’s happening now. And we expect these trends to continue, as long as we keep warming the world.”