While avian flu is spreading in North America, zoos hide birds
Omaha, Neb. – Zoos across North America are moving their birds indoors and away from people and wildlife as they try to protect them from highly contagious and potentially deadly avian flu.
Penguins may be the only birds that visit many zoos, as they are already housed inside and are usually covered behind glass in their exhibits, making bird flu difficult to reach.
Nearly 23 million chickens and turkeys have already been killed across the United States to limit the spread of the virus, and zoos are working hard to ensure that none of their birds suffer the same fate. It would be especially disturbing for zoos to kill any endangered or endangered species in their care.
“It would be extremely devastating,” said Maria Franke, a welfare science manager at the Toronto Zoo, who has less than two dozen loghead shrike songbirds that are breeding in hopes of bringing them back into the wild. “We take amazing care and the welfare and well-being of our animals is paramount. There are a lot of staff at the zoo who are closely associated with the animals they care for. ”
Toronto zoo workers are adding roofs to some of the outdoor bird exhibits and re-examining the nets around the nets to make sure wild birds are kept out.
Birds release the virus through their feces and nasal secretions. Experts say it can be spread by contaminated equipment, clothing, shoes and vehicles carrying supplies. Research has shown that small birds that are twisted in zoo exhibits or buildings can also spread the flu, and rats can also track it from within.
So far, no outbreaks have been reported at the zoo, but wild birds have been found dead from the flu. For example, a wild duck that died behind the scenes at the Blanc Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa, tested positive after a hurricane last month, said zoo spokesman Ryan Bickell.
Most of the steps taken by the zoo are designed to avoid contact between wild birds and animals in the zoo. In some places, authorities are requiring staff to wear clean boots and protective gear before entering the bird area.
When cases of bird flu are found in poultry, authorities order the entire herd to be killed because the virus is highly contagious. However, U.S. The Department of Agriculture has suggested that zoos can avoid infected birds by isolating them and euthanizing a small number of them.
Sarah Woodhouse, director of animal health at the Henry Dorley Zoo in Omaha, said she is optimistic after speaking with state and federal regulators.
“They all agree that ordering us to remove a large portion of our collection would be the last resort. So they’re really interested in seeing what we can do to be able to take care of our birds and to make sure we don’t die, “said Woodhouse.
One of the precautions taken by the zoo is to keep the birds in small groups so that if a case is found, only a few people will be affected. The final decision on which birds to kill will be made by the USDA and state veterinarians.
“Euthanasia is really the only way to prevent it from spreading,” said Louis Padilla, vice president of animal collections at the St. Louis Zoo. “That’s why we have so many of these active solutions.”
National Aviary in Pittsburgh – the country’s largest — – is conducting individual health checks on each of its approximately 500 birds. Many already live in large glass enclosures or outdoor habitats where they have no direct contact with wildlife, said Dr. Pillar Fish, senior director of veterinary medicine and zoological advances. Said Pillar Fish.
Kansas City Zoo chief executive Sean Putney said he had heard some complaints from visitors, but that it was fine because most people did not see any birds. “I think our visitors understand that when we make these decisions, we have in mind what is in the best interests of the animals, even if they cannot see them,” Putin said.
Officials emphasize that bird flu does not endanger the safety of meat or eggs or pose a significant threat to human health. No infected birds are allowed to enter the food supply and proper cooking of chickens and eggs kills bacteria and viruses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, no human cases have been reported in the US.