Hundreds of seabirds, including pelicans and cormorants, have turned up dead on a beach in Lima’s southern Chorrillos district, newspaper La Republica reported.
The birds, found along the shore at Villa, are believed to have died from starvation as a result of the El Niño weather phenomenon, according to the report.
Pelicans and cormorants are used to feeding on schools of anchovy in the cold Pacific waters, but the fish have moved further out to sea as a result of the warm-water current of El Niño.
“Of a thousand, 50% live and the other 50% don’t,” said Fernando Angulo, an ornithologist at the Center for Biodiversity, or Corbidi. “They die due to the lack of fish or due to some other natural phenomenon. It is the law of nature, the strongest survive.”
El Nino, a usually weak surface current of warm water that moves across the Pacific and south along the Ecuadorian and Peruvian coast, becomes stronger every several years, pushing the northbound cold Humboldt current down deeper in the ocean, which means that the nutrient rich cold waters are not easily available to many fish like anchovy, and to birds who feed on the fish.
The seasonal result is not only a change in sea life but in the weather patterns, and has often wreaked havoc on Peru’s economy.
The government said earlier this year that it had a $1 billion budget to mitigate the potential disasters of the approaching El Niño weather phenomenon, of which $275 million is to be invested in the agricultural sector. Other sectors are transport and health.
El Niño, believed in the 19th century to affect mainly Ecuador and Peru, affects weather patterns across the entire Pacific.
In Ecuador, the penguin population on the Galapagos Islands plummets during a Niño year.
On Peru’s coast, it affects fish stocks and bird populations, bringing rains to the north desert and drought to the southern highlands. Rains in the usually dry desert of Peru’s north coast are believed to have brought the Chimu civilization, and the Chan Chan citadel, to an end around 1200 AD, while long and severe droughts in the southern Andes changed civilizations and water sources. In the 20th century, El Niño had a strong effect on Peru’s economy in 1925, 1953, 1972, 1982, 1986, 1992, 1993, and 1997. In this century, mild to medium Niño currents have been felt more frequently, every two or three years.