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Thursday, 31 August, 2000, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
Iranians race to save flamingoes

An Iranian rescue effort is under way to save 2,000 flamingo chicks left stranded by drought at Lake Bakhtegan in the south of the country.

Local environmentalists estimate that 3,000 chicks, which were too young or weak to migrate, have already died.

The second largest lake in Iran, Lake Bakhtegan, once covered 50,000 hectares, but the regional drought has reduced it to a few stagnant pools of water.

Now up to 100 young people from the nearby city of Shiraz have joined the mission to save the remaining birds.

Chicks 'near death'

The rescuers hope to transfer the flamingoes to a lake nearby.

But their efforts are being hindered by the physical weakness of the chicks which Iranian radio said were "struggling with death".

Drought in Iran
18 out of 28 provinces affected

2.8 million tonnes of wheat destroyed

800,000 animals dead from malnutrition

70% of rural water supplies disrupted

Iran is suffering its worst drought in 30 years: wildlife refuges have been destroyed, lakes and rivers have dried up and large areas of pasture and farmland have been reduced to dust.

An estimated 800,000 livestock animals have already died, and half the Iranian population of 62 million is facing a shortage of drinking water.

United Nations officials have appealed for international help to prevent a catastrophe.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and much of India have also been badly hit by the drought over the past six months.

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See also:

03 Aug 00 | Middle East
Iran facing drought catastrophe
31 Jul 00 | South Asia
Taleban blames Afghans for drought
11 May 00 | Middle East
Drought raises food fears
10 May 00 | South Asia
Drought hits Iran's farmers
18 Jul 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iran
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