Trapped Dalmatian pelicans hand-fed in frozen Caspian Sea

People watch Dalmatian pelicans as they gather in the water area of the Caspian Sea port in Makhachkala Local residents have been aiding the effort to keep the pelicans fed

Authorities in the southern Russian province of Dagestan are trying to save hundreds of rare Dalmatian pelicans trapped by unusually cold weather.

The birds migrated to the area near the city of Makhachkala last week.

About 20 birds have already died of hunger after the Caspian Sea froze over, local government spokesman Arslan Dydymov told the Associated Press.

Around 1,400 Dalmatian pelicans, the world's largest variety of pelican, are thought to live in southern Russia.

Mr Dydymov said hundreds of kilograms of fish had been bought every day by Dagestan's Nature Protection Ministry for the pelicans.

Local residents have been volunteering to help authorities in their efforts to feed the birds.

But the authorities at the shipyard where the birds have been trapped at first refused the public entry.

"We did not let them in for the sake of the pelicans,'' chief guard Magomed Eldarov told AP, citing concerns that some residents had brought bread and other foods unsuitable for pelicans.

The birds are being fed locally-bought sprats while fishing in the Caspian is impossible.

"Yesterday it seemed they ate more than enough," Dagestan nature reserve spokesman Kurban Kuniev told AP.

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