Thousands of migratory birds of about 28 species were found dead around Sambhar Lake, the country's largest inland saltwater lake near Jaipur, sending shock waves among locals and authorities.
Sources said that since Monday, 2,338 dead birds were found by forest teams combing the area, however, the official toll stood at 1,500.
Meanwhile, locals have claimed the number of dead birds could be as high as 5,000.
Photographs: PTI Photo
While the cause of death is yet to be ascertained, the team ruled out the possibility of bird flu (H5N1) and noted the birds showed symptoms of paralysis leading to death.
"Paralysis before death is a symptom of toxicity in the water. The deaths could also be due to overconsumption of salt. However, we'll be able to confirm the exact reason once we have the results," Prasad told PTI after consulting with a team of doctors. "We are ruling out bird flu, there is no secretion in the birds, no laceration either. Also, bird flu usually affects 80 per cent of the bird population and becomes an epidemic, which is not the case here," he added.
Operations were carried out to rescue the migratory birds that were found incapacitated at the Sambhar Salt Lake.
The affected bird species were Pallas's Gull, Pied Avocet, Ruff, Common Red Shanks, Marsh Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Lesser Sand Plover, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Common Coot, Green Bee-eater, Black winged Kite, Ruddy Shelduck, Black-winged Stilt, Temmink's Stint, Gadwalls, Black/brown headed Gull, Gull-Billed Tern, Greater Flamingo, Lesser Whistling duck, Creak, Silverbill, Knob-billed duck, Mallard, Ferruginous Duck, Northern Shoveler, Common Teal, and Northern Pintail.
The lake is also a favourite of flamingos, stilts, stints, garganey, gulls and a number of other species of birds.
The sources said that forest teams were combing the boundary of the lake and since Monday, they had found 2,338 dead birds in the area who were later buried.
The boundary of the lake is 15 km in length and the teams have covered 3 km so far, the sources said.
This is the second such incident in the state within a week. Last Thursday, 37 demoiselle cranes were found dead in Jodhpur's Khinchan area. Their viscera too have been sent for investigation and reports are awaited.
The strange episode has left villagers and people of the forest department baffled for the lack of a sensible explanation.
"I have never seen such a thing in 40 years of my service in the forest department. First I thought it could be because of the hail, but that occurs every year. There is no chemical waste in this water either," said Ramesh Chandra Daroga, a local working with the forest department.
With inputs from PTI