Disoriented by forest fires, migrating storks die crossing Greece


ATHENS, Aug. 9 (Reuters) – Migrating storks crossing Greece on their way to Africa were victims of forest fires that raged across the country last week, became disoriented by the flames and were lost, injured or killed, wildlife groups said.

Every year, storks pass through the Attica region around Athens, heading towards Cape Sounion about 70 km (45 miles) southeast of the capital where they wait for favorable winds to help them cross the Mediterranean in Africa for the winter.

“Unfortunately, they were passing by when the fire happened,” said Maria Ganoti, president of the Hellenic Association for the Protection of Wildlife ANIMA, which treats and rehabilitates wild animals at its first aid center in Athens.

She said that in the past three days storks had been found in “places they would never have been, such as Vrilissia, Halandri, apartment buildings”, referring to two residential areas from the north of Athens.

In the unfamiliar urban terrain, some of the birds became confused and large numbers died after crashing into power lines and power pylons.

“This is the first time that we have had so many dead storks in Athens,” she said. “People in Athens collect dead storks from their lawns.”

ANIMA’s first aid center has treated a number of storks which Ganoti says will be released into the wild when they are strong enough. But birds represent only a small part of the suffering endured by animals, both wild and domesticated, in the fires that devastated thousands of hectares of forest.

“Some of the animals that are here will die. Turtles for example, if they inhaled a lot of smoke and were burned inside, they won’t be able to eat and they will die, there is nothing you can do about it.”

Written by Deborah Kyvrikosaios; Editing by James Mackenzie and Janet Lawrence

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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