It’s been going on for about a week. On Wednesday dead and ill galahs were found around the streets of Burra, two hours north of Adelaide, and the toll has now grown to 200.
Animal Rescue and Care coordinator Ruth Norris was one of the first to raise the alarm, writing a widely-shared post on Facebook. “The manner in which they die suggests poisoning,” she wrote, clarifying they’re not “behaving like grain drunk birds.”
In seeding season, birds often eat so much grain they become ill. Ruth believed this was not the case for these animals.
"We're wondering whether someone has put some poison down inadvertently—a fertiliser, poison, or whether it was an actual purposeful poisoning, I don't know," Ruth explained to the ABC. "We're hoping to send some off to PIRSA [Primary Industries and Regions SA] or a lab to get tested.”
The dying birds were mostly found in the main street, where they tend to congregate in the evenings. They’re mostly adult birds, and seemingly healthy. An autopsy revealed the birds had very little grain in their stomachs, and were otherwise free of major diseases.
“It appears to be a very unusual event or even suspicious," Ruth told ABC reporters Eugene Boisvert and Patrick Martin.
If it turns out to have been a deliberate poisoning, it wouldn’t be the first time. Only last month a mass grave of eagles was found on a Victorian farm. It’s understood farmers often poison birds to prevent them from eating produce and livestock.