Avian flu contained at World of Birds

AstroTurf has been placed at 10 sites around World of Birds.

Despite World of Birds having to cull 150 birds when five birds tested positive for avian influenza, the popular Hout Bay tourist attraction remains open to the public.

The outbreak has been confined to two open enclosures in Africa’s largest bird park, and every precaution has been taken to ensure the influenza does not spread.

World of Birds staff have been closely monitoring the outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N8 strain of avian influenza across South Africa. Last week, five dead birds were found in the enclosures and immediately sent to the state vet for testing. They were subsequently found to be positive for the strain.

According to World of Birds owner Walter Mangold, a decision was taken to cull 150 fowl, including turkeys, chickens and ducks.

“It is tragic that we have had to do this, but then again we are lucky that the influenza has not spread to the rest of the population. Because of the open enclosures, Sacred Ibises and other wild birds were able to fly freely into the park,” he said.

“On Friday, the state vet gave us permission to keep the park open, and we have done everything the state vet has recommended.”

Among the measures that have been taken is the laying down of AstroTurf at 10 different sites around the park. These areas are sprayed several times a day with disinfectant.

Signs warning the public that the facility has been placed under quarantine and emphasising that no birds may be moved in or out of the facility also have been stationed at the entry and exit points.

World of Birds manager Hendrik Louw said aside from the five of the 2 500 bird population testing positive, staff were still taking samples for testing daily.

“Currently we are awaiting several results. Samples are taken from both birds euthanased at Woburn as well as healthy birds within the collection. Those birds euthanased showed no symptoms, but due to direct contact with the infected birds they had to be euthanased,” he said.

“It is a very sad and stressful time at World of Birds for all staff. In the more than 40 years of our existence, we have never been faced with such a tragedy. I can only say I am so grateful for the support of officers for our staff. Without them
we would not be able to handle this. The state vet as well as our local vet in Penzance have been tremendous in assisting and guiding us through this.”

He said a little more than a month ago the first case of avian influenza was reported near Wellington. “This made us step up our biosecurity. Yet we could only control this on ground level and actually had no chance against free flying wild birds that pose the biggest risk.”