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Losing sight of the real causes of mass animal death?

by Kieran Ball 08 Mar 2011
Losing sight of the real causes of mass animal death?

Since last December when 83,000 Drum fish were washed up in Arkansas and thousands of blackbirds fell dead just 100km away in the town of Beebe, the world media has been full of reports of mass animal death. Journalists have gone as far as to nickname the phenomena 'aflockalypse'.

Incidents have been reported all over the world, but now that Google has mapped the incidents, it's clear that the majority of the incidents are concentrated in the south eastern corner of the United States - right next to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

After the unexplained bird deaths in Beebe, birds fell in both Kentucky and Louisiana. Incidents of dead fish, including starfish and other sea life were reported all along the gulfstream on the entire western seaboard. Even incidents of mass crab and fish deaths in the UK occurred in the path of the gulfstream.

Unexplained phenomena makes for a great news story, especially with the current fixation with 2012 doomsday prophecies, but in reality, the most rational explanation for the upsurge in mass animal deaths, given their location, is the link with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Is it possible, for example, that the spill caused more damage to the food chain on a wider scale than previously thought?

The reality is, mass animal deaths are not uncommon. They just aren't frequently reported in the wider media. There have been many incidents throughout past and recent history. What's more, many, including those making the headlines now can be rationally explained. Recent bat deaths have been attributed to outbreaks of white nose disease and some mass fish deaths have been caused by cold water stress, due to an unseasonal drop in water temperature.

Of course, the more 'unexplained' phenomena hit the headlines, the more ammunition the doomsday speculators have for their end of the world scenarios and government conspiracies. Perhaps the biggest lesson to be learnt from the current mass death phenomena is the effect media sensationalism has on distracting efforts away from the getting to the real causes behind environmental issues.

The recent and continuing spate of mass wildlife deaths is a real and serious issue - one that can only be resolved by rational examination by the scientific community and certainly not by tabloid journalism and would-be doomsday prophets.


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