They were all found together in a lake 😔
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Thousands of cranes have died from a bird flu outbreak in Israel this week, in what's being called the worst wildlife disaster in the country's history.
Officials found more than 5,000 cranes dead at the Hula Lake Reserve in northern Israel on Sunday, the Times of Israel reports. The dead birds tested positive for H5N1, a strain of the bird flu.
Tamar Zandberg, Israel's environmental protection minister, described it on Twitter as the "most serious damage to wildlife in the history of the country."
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Cranes typically migrate through Israel twice a year and Hula Lake is one of their favourite spots to stop and rest.
But a strain of the bird flu apparently hit the crane hot spot over the weekend, and thousands of cranes were found dead in and around the lake in recent days.
The nature reserve has been closed until January and authorities are trying to get rid of the bodies so they don't spread the virus to other animals in the area.
Uri Naveh, a senior scientist with the Israel Parks and Nature Authority, said officials are still trying to get the situation under control and the cleanup has been slow.
"Many of the birds are dead in the middle of the water body so it’s difficult for them to be taken out," he told The Associated Press.
In the meantime, local farmers have killed nearly half a million of their own chickens and turkeys as a precaution, a spokesperson for the Agriculture Ministry told the AP.
The outbreak seems to have eased up after the weekend, according to Yaron Michaeli, a spokesperson for the nature reserve where the birds were found.
"This is a good sign," he told the AP. "They might be starting to get over this. We hope very much."
There have been no reports so far of the virus spreading to humans.