Wed, Aug 21, 2013 - Page 7 News List

Moscow agency investigates mass deaths of pigeons

The Guardian, MOSCOW

Amid reports of pigeons dying, falling from the sky and acting like “zombies,” the Moscow environmental prosecutor’s office has begun an investigation into what some media outlets and bloggers have called a pigeon apocalypse.

The environmental prosecutor has ordered the environment protection department and several municipal agencies to investigate the mass deaths of pigeons and other birds in Moscow, said the newspaper Izvestiya, quoting Timur Brudastov, a senior judicial adviser at the prosecutor’s office.

Brudastov said that, according to the Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance, Moscow has become a “hotbed” of Newcastle disease, a bird disease that can be transmitted to humans.

“We’re getting different information. Someone will write that seven birds have died in the city, while others tell us about them dying en masse,” Brudastov said.

Although not all pigeons are affected, some have reportedly been acting as if drugged, stumbling and reacting slowly to humans, or else flying into the faces of passersby and falling to the ground.

“Before death, they start to resemble zombies: They lose their orientation and fly without a sense of direction, then fall, already lacking the strength to get up,” wrote Konstantin Ranks, a science columnist at the Web site Slon.ru.

Some cases of salmonella infection had also been found in dead birds, Aleksei Alekseyenko, an aide at the federal service, told Izvestiya.

He said the combination of hot weather and the presence of an infected bird had probably led to the outbreak of disease, but added that the epidemic was already coming to an end.

One veterinarian, Natalya Anisimova, told the Russian TV channel Rain last week that her clinic had received many calls about dead birds, but such deaths happened every summer.

However, she agreed that the the problem could be growing more acute because the pigeon population was growing.

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