Police launched an investigation on Monday into the deaths of at least 185 cranes in a large nature reserve in the south of Ukraine.
Staff at the Askania-Nova sanctuary said they initially suspected that the cranes, some of which were coughing up blood, had bird flu. But this was not confirmed.
According to the regional police department, the director of the reserve said that “around 185 endangered grey cranes died within a week”.
Investigators suspect the Grus grus cranes, also known as the Eurasian crane and declared endangered in Ukraine, ate poisoned seeds planted at nearby farms to fight rodents. Police will investigate “pollution or damage to the land” and establish the exact cause of death.
Located near the Black Sea, Askania-Nova occupies some 33,300 hectares (81,500 acres) and is the oldest steppe reserve in the world. It is home to more than 500 plants and more than 3,000 animal species, some of which are endangered.