500 pigeons die in temple

GUWAHATI, FEB. 26. About 500 pigeons have died at the Kamakhya temple here over the last six days. The State Veterinary Department has sent the dead pigeons to the Bird Flu Research Centre in Bhopal to rule out the possibility of an avian flu outbreak. Officials of the department attributed the death of the birds to "vitamin deficiency and dehydration."

At the temple today, a team of veterinary doctors could be seen administering vitamins orally to the affected pigeons. Even as officials claimed that the birds were responding to the treatment, and that the death rate had declined, several birds dropped dead in their presence.

The symptoms are similar. The affected birds constantly rotate their heads and die after a couple of hours as the intensity of swinging increases. The officials said: "These symptoms manifest when a bird feeding on grains develops vitamin deficiency, particularly thiamine deficiency."

Asked why the birds were dehydrated, Dr. D.K. Sharma, Assistant Research Officer at the veterinary hospital, said the temple was experiencing water scarcity and that the pigeons might not have had enough water to drink. The vitamin deficiency was due to the feeding of only rice.

The doctors also suspect that the water sources of the pigeons could have been contaminated with bleaching powder that was used to clean the temple for the ongoing yajna.