I can think of few unsolved mysteries of the past decade as perplexing as the mass animal deaths that seem to occur in waves in random parts of the world. The latest chapter involves the death of 1,000 birds, mostly Pelicans, that turned up dead on the Peruvian coast over the past few weeks. This follows the recent mass deaths of dolphins along this same Pacific coast, another still unexplained occurrence.
Peruvian authorities have reacted by warning people to stay off beaches, but the truth is they don’t really know why these animals have turned up dead in this manner. If we look at the past years and all the mass animal deaths, the truth is we rarely know the cause. Last year in North and South America, the mass death of birds and fish was the subject of headlines and speculation for many weeks. Several theories arose to explain this phenomenon, including many conspiracies involving the testing of special hi-tech military tools. None were ever proven.
On a smaller scale, in 2005 more than 1,000 toads exploded in Germany. It was later found that birds had eaten their livers, causing the toads to swell and explode. The silver lining in that case was that at least the deaths could be explained, which had not been the case in 2009, when thousands of birds of many varieties suddenly died in Chilé. Some think it may have been caused by global warming and unusual weather patterns, but none of those theories have been confirmed.
In Peru meanwhile authorities are scrambling to find an answer and give useful advice to a nervous population. Some in the science community point to the possibility that a virus is what led to the initial deaths of the dolphins. Others point to extreme shifts in ocean currents that may have starved the pelicans. Is this another viral epidemic outbreak and can the next one be avoided? There is little in the way of answers at the moment.
Photo: ipercher / flickr