Delhi Zoo on lockdown as bird flu returns: Mass CULL of migratory birds expected as hundreds of Rosy Pelicans, Painted Storks and Bar-Headed Geese could be exterminated
- Ten water birds have died at the zoological garden over the past week
- Bird flu first broke out in India in 2006 and millions of chickens and ducks have been culled since to contain the virus
- Delhi Zoo has closed until experts can assess the situation
- See more news from India at www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome
17:50 EST, 19 October 2016
17:50 EST, 19 October 2016
About ten water birds have died at the zoological garden over the past week, nearly a month after India declared itself free from avian influenza.
Bird flu first broke out in India in 2006 and millions of chickens and ducks have been culled since to contain the virus, but it has resurfaced from time to time.
The dreaded bird flu has nested in the Capital yet again, shutting down the city zoo and leaving the poultry market ill at ease
Authorities have sounded an alert at six points in the Capital where either migratory birds come to roost, or poultry is traded.
These include the Ghazipur murga mandi, Nizamuddin poultry market, Yamuna Biodiversity Park, Najafgarh drain as well as the Delhi Zoo.
The government has also launched a helpline to which people can report instances of unusual bird deaths.
Scientists will assess the situation on Saturday, following which a decision will be taken on reopening the zoo
“We have formed six teams which will now do daily monitoring at specific sites,” said Delhi’s rural development minister Gopal Rai, adding that autopsy of the dead birds confirmed that some of them had avian influenza.
“Besides, we are taking precautionary measures such as spraying Baygon and do a lining of lime (calcium carbonate) which controls the spread of H5N1 virus.”
Most strains of bird flu do not usually infect humans, according to the World Health Organization.
But the H5 strain of the virus – found in the zoo’s birds – can cause fever, cough, sore throat, pneumonia, respiratory diseases and sometimes death.
Sources say officials are also planning to start culling, which means hundreds of migratory birds including over 50 Rosy Pelicans and Painted Storks will be killed to control the spread of the disease.
Ten water birds have died at the zoological garden over the past week
“A team of experts from Maharashtra, which battled the worst outbreak in the country yet in 2006, has been contacted. They should join us in the investigations and finding remedial measures soon,” Rai said.
He added that scientists will assess the situation on Saturday, following which a decision will be taken on reopening the zoo.
The park, where the annual footfall is close to 22 lakh, hit the headlines in May after the death of about 50 spotted deer reportedly due to rabies.
The Bar-headed Goose is known to be the biggest carrier of bird flu
A high-level meeting is slated for Thursday between various departments of the Delhi government – environment, revenue, health and animal husbandry – and the National Zoological Park administration as well as the central government’s animal husbandry department.
The final decision on culling is yet to be taken but it is the only resort to completely sanitise the area and ensure that the virus does not spread, a senior officer said.
Sources say officials are also planning to start culling, which means hundreds of migratory birds including over 50 Rosy Pelicans and Painted Storks (pictured) will be killed to control the spread of the disease
However, Delhi Zoo spokesperson Riyaz Khan rejected the need for culling. “This is a very low-level incident and the situation is under control,” he said.
“Thousands of birds are living in the pond. Culling will be done only at the last stage.”
A large herd of local migratory birds stay near the water bodies of the Delhi Zoo throughout the year.
As this is an open enclosure, they also fly off to nearby areas such as the Okhla bird sanctuary, Sultanpur or wetlands around the Capital.
A large herd of local migratory birds stay near the water bodies of the Delhi Zoo throughout the year (pictured – Rosy Pelicans)
According to a top source, Delhi Zoo officials were negligent in managing the situation as workers from the veterinary department and animal section were not wearing gloves or face mask while handling dead birds.
“Now even they have been kept under observation to check if they are showing any signs of weakness.
“Instructions have been given on precautions to be taken while handling these situations by the ministry,” a senior official told Mail Today.
Animal rights activist Gauri Maulekhi blamed the Delhi Zoo director for the deaths of the birds in the complex.
Dr Faiyaz A Khudsar, scientist-in-charge at the Yamuna Biodiversity Park in Wazirabad, said no such mortality has been reported from the facility.
“The symptoms are excessive mucus secretion from the mouth and nose, and birds which have contracted H5N1 virus mostly die from dehydration,” he said.
“The biggest carriers of H5N1 are the bar-headed geese that are yet to arrive.”
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