The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Epidemic wildlife deaths inspire unusual theories

Fireworks, champagne, a midnight kiss—a traditional New Year’s Eve in Beebe, Arkansas, was shaken when thousands of birds spontaneously died, some in mid-flight, reports Bloomberg.

The Huffington Post reports that besides the estimated 5,000 dead birds in Beebe, birds were found dead in California, Missouri, Louisiana, Italy and Sweden during the first week of 2011. In addition, dead fish have washed ashore in Chicago, Arkansas, the Chesapeake Bay, Brazil and New Zealand. The shores of England sport tens of thousands of dead crabs.

Early explanations for the events—dubbed the “Aflockalypse” by Melissa Bell of The Washington Post—ranged from UFOs, to the government, to supernatural causes, says the Bloomberg report.

In an e-mail interview, Dr. Kevin Keel, a wildlife pathologist at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study and the University of Georgia, said that the birds in Arkansas and Louisiana died of blunt force trauma. Keel has examined birds from both incidents.

“Trauma is a common cause of mortality for wildlife, although the case in Arkansas was unusual due to the large number of birds involved,” said Keel. “Mortality due to impact with towers, and some buildings, is a well-documented cause of sustained mortality among birds. We see such cases here on a regular basis and not many people have expressed much interest in them until the recent press coverage.”

Reported by National Geographic, ornithologist Karen Rowe’s explanation for the “Aflockalypse” is that New Year’s Eve fireworks disoriented the birds.

“Right before they began to fall, it appears that really loud booms from professional-grade fireworks—10 to 12 of them, a few seconds apart—were reported in the general vicinity of a roost of the birds, flushing them out,” said Rowe. “They collided with cars, trees, buildings and other stationary objects.”

National Geographic reports blunt force trauma as the reason behind recent bird deaths in Sweden as well. The Huffington Post states that the accepted explanation for other bird, fish and crab deaths is the atypically cold weather.

Unusual theories for the “Aflockalypse” persist in spite of official explanations.

Evangelist Cindy Jacobs’ unique interpretation is shown on a video posted on Right Wing Watch.

“Often what happens is that nature itself will begin to talk to us,” said Jacobs. “There are actually some patterns that you can see where a nation will make a decision… and after that there is some kind of answer that God gives.”

Jacobs’s theory is that the dead birds in Beebe are a message from God due to the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

“I find this ludicrous,” said sophomore physics and music major Taylor Seitz, about Jacobs’s video. Seitz is the religion and spirituality coordinator for Pride.

“As a scientist, I would consider an explanation from the physical world: illness, atmospheric conditions, maybe human effects,” said Seitz. “I would completely rule out supernatural causes. There is really no theological foundation for her theory.”

Paul Joseph Watson and Alex Jones of postulate that secret government testing may be related to the events.

“Scalar weapons that can artificially manipulate the environment could be responsible for the mass die offs,” said Watson and Jones. “The number one suspect in such cases should always be government.”

Thurman Booth, a wildlife services director in Arkansas, disagrees.

“I think it’s safe to say that there was no secret conspiracy by anyone,” said Booth to Bloomberg. “It is not the beginning of the apocalypse. It was not nerve gas. It was not poison.”

The sentiment is common throughout the scientific community.

“I don’t think such theories are even worth comment,” said Keel.

Regardless of the scientific explanation, X-Files-like theories about the wildlife deaths are still popular. The number and type of theories proposed to resolve the deaths are unfortunate, according to Rowe.

“I wish I could take all this energy and attention on these deaths and direct them toward true crises in wildlife biology,” she said.


Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Guilfordian intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and must be approved by a moderator to ensure that they meet these standards. The Guilfordian does not allow anonymous comments, and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The Guilfordian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *