Close to 1,500 migratory birds died under mysterious circumstances around Sambhar Lake in Jaipur district of Rajasthan, PTI reported on Monday. Local residents claimed the number of dead birds could be as high as 5,000.

“The birds belong to roughly 15 species,” said Jaipur Chief Conservator of Forests Arun Prasad, according to The Indian Express. “It has been happening for the last three to four days.”

Officials are yet to ascertain the cause of the deaths but suspect that the reason was a hailstorm that hit the area a few days ago. They are awaiting the viscera test reports. “We are also looking at other possibilities like toxicity of the water, bacterial or viral infection,” forest ranger Rajendra Jakhar told PTI.

Sambhar Lake is India’s largest inland salt lake. It is a recognised wetland of international importance, and hosts thousands of migratory birds during winters. The dead birds included plovers, common coots, black winged stilts, northern shovelers, ruddy shelducks and pied avocets. The carcasses of 669 birds were buried in a ditch, while many still lay strewn around, reported PTI.

A medical team from Jaipur has collected a few carcasses, while water samples are being sent to a laboratory in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, for further examination.

Veterinary doctor Ashok Rao ruled out the possibility of bird flu. “At initial examination we did not find any sort of secretion from the birds, which is a giveaway in the cases of bird flu,” he said.

Ashok Sharma, the joint director of the State Disease Diagnostic Centre, said steps will be taken once the reason was ascertained. “We don’t think it is a case of infection, but if it turns out to be the case we will take further steps to make sure it doesn’t spread,” he added.

This is the second such incident in the state within a week. On November 7, as many as 37 demoiselle cranes were found dead in Jodhpur’s Khinchan area. Their viscera reports are also awaited.

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