More than 5,000 cranes have been killed by a massive avian flu outbreak in Israel that authorities warn is the “worst blow” to wildlife in the country’s history.
The dead cranes were discovered Sunday at the popular Hula Nature Reserve in northern Israel.
Rangers in hazardous material suits were pictured collecting the carcasses of the cranes from a lake and outlying marshes at the reserve.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his national security adviser have already met with experts to discuss efforts to contain the H5N1 outbreak and prevent it from passing into humans.
So far no human transmission has been reported, according to the prime minister’s office.
Tens of thousands of wild birds migrate each year to the reserve, where authorities provide food for them to deter them from eating farmers’ crops, the Times of Israel reported.
Authorities believe the H5N1 virus may have been brought in via a truck driver who delivered food to the reserve.
Children who had visited the reserve may have also contributed to spreading the virus after touching some of the stricken cranes.
The outbreak has prompted authorities to declare the nature reserve off limits to visitors.
They also warned of a possible egg shortage as poultry birds were culled as a precaution.
“This is the worst blow to wildlife in the country’s history,” Environment Minister Tamar Zandberg tweeted.
She added that hundreds of thousands of chickens had been culled.
Authorities were trying to ease import quotas and bring in eggs from other countries in a bid to prevent a potential egg shortage because of the culling precautions.
With Post wires