The Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary in northern Senegal has been closed to the public after 750 pelicans mysteriously died. Initial analysis ruled out bird flu.
A patrol in the bird park found “740 juvenile and 10 adult” pelicans dead on January 23, the environment ministry said.
The ministry added that it had ordered “on-the-spot autopsies” and that samples had been sent for analysis.
The pelican bodies have been destroyed and public access, including canoe tours through the park’s waterways, has been suspended.
The bird sanctuary has been listed as a heritage site by UNESCO since 1981, and is a major green tourism draw for Senegal.
With a mixture of wetlands, savannah, canals and lakes, Djoudj is home to more than three million individual birds from almost 400 species.
Authorities have already ruled out bird flu as a potential cause of the unusual pelican deaths. “Avian flu only affects birds that eat grains. But pelicans eat fish,” national parks director Bocar Thiam told AFP.