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Chileans upset over dead swans, some blame pulp mill

Emaciated black-necked swans have been falling from the sky here, alarming people in this scenic university town and setting off a national clamour.
PTI | By Reuters, Valdivia (chile)
PUBLISHED ON JAN 06, 2005 12:24 PM IST

Emaciated black-necked swans have been falling from the sky here, alarming people in this scenic university town and setting off a national clamour.

At least 130 swans have been found dead since late October and most of the survivors have migrated from the Carlos Anwandter sanctuary near the southern Chilean city of Valdivia, which was home to more than 6,000 swans. Those that remain float wanly in the wetland, too weak to fly.

Black-necked swans are not an endangered species, yet their dramatic demise has grown into a national scandal. Environmentalists blame a new pulp mill in the area and believe the country's natural resources are being sacrificed.

Scientists quickly linked the swans' disappearance to a massive die-off of their prime source of food, Brazilian waterweed known locally as luchecillo.

The government has ordered a study to determine what killed the leafy water plant that until a few months ago dominated the 12,051 acre (4,877-hectare) sanctuary. Most townspeople believe the culprit is the $1.2 billion Arauco wood pulp mill, which began operating in February upriver from the wetland.

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