Cormorants are among the victims. File photo: Armand Hough African News Agency (ANA)
Cormorants are among the victims. File photo: Armand Hough African News Agency (ANA)

Cape authorities continue efforts to stop further spread of avian flu outbreak among seabirds

By Kristin Engel Time of article published Oct 19, 2021

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Cape Town - After roughly 700 dead birds per day were collected from a number of regions across the province over the weekend, Western Cape authorities, along with various partners, continued to respond to the ongoing outbreak of avian influenza among wild seabirds.

Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell said authorities were working all weekend to clean up suspected outbreaks and remove dead and sick birds to prevent the further spread of the virus.

“Environmentalists have been monitoring the outbreak since May when the virus was first detected in wild sea birds. We believe the mass fatalities seen since last week is due to the beginning of the breeding season,” said Bredell.

Bredell said the main hotspots of the outbreak continue to be the Bergrivier Municipality and Dyer Island in the Overberg.

“It is critical to prevent the spread of the disease. This means people must not attempt to assist or transport any sick birds. This remains a serious situation with the impact hard felt among endangered wild birds, particularly cormorants.

“This is an incurable disease affecting birds that is not preventative, cannot be treated and is highly contagious to birds,” said Bredell.

A variety of animal rescue and conservation groups joined forces to assist in monitoring and managing the situation – including SANCCOB, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, CapeNature, SANParks, West Coast District Municipality, Bergrivier Local Municipality, the Robben Island Museum, Western Cape Veterinary Services, BirdLife South Africa, Dyer Island Conservation Trust, The Owl Orphanage St. Helena Bay, Dwarskersbos Snake Rescue, the SPCA and local veterinarians.

While the Disaster Management Centre urged the public to be vigilant and report unusual mortalities in any birds to their local municipality, conservation authority or state veterinarian.

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