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Avian flu strikes endangered penguins in Cape City

African penguins pictured at Boulder’s Seashore.

Hoberman Assortment/Common Photos Group by way of Get

  • Avian flu was detected in penguins in Cape City.
  • 4 circumstances have been confirmed among the many endangered seabirds at Boulders Penguin Colony.
  • Regardless of the infections, the favored vacationer vacation spot will stay open to the general public – for now.

Cape City’s well-loved penguin colony faces a brand new menace: avian flu.

The illness was detected on the Boulders Penguin Colony.

The flu pressure is identical because the one detected in seabirds within the Western Cape final yr. That outbreak noticed hundreds of birds die in weak colonies.

Now, conservationists fear the identical destiny might await the endangered penguins – if fast motion will not be taken.

As soon as seabirds present signs of chook flu, they often die quickly afterward, mentioned Dr David Roberts, a scientific veterinarian on the Southern African Basis for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob).

He mentioned:

It might probably additionally pose a major danger to breeding colonies if there’s an outbreak in endangered species, just like the African Penguin, Cape Cormorant and Cape Gannet. An outbreak might considerably have an effect on the inhabitants numbers.

With a inhabitants of solely 3 000 birds at Boulders, each loss of life locations pressure on conservation efforts to revive the colony’s numbers.

As of Friday, there had been 4 confirmed circumstances and one other seven suspected circumstances, mentioned Desk Mountain Nationwide Park (TMNP) administration.

The outbreak of chook flu final yr killed an estimated 230 African penguins, mentioned Roberts.

“On the peak of the outbreak, greater than 500 affected birds have been collected per day. The population-level impact was of an unprecedented scale, and roughly 15% of the South African inhabitants of Cape cormorants died from avian influenza in lower than 4 months, exhibiting that illness can play a major function in inhabitants decline in endangered species,” he mentioned.

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The outbreak devastated the endangered Cape cormorant inhabitants within the Western Cape, ensuing within the deaths of 24 000 birds. The worst-affected space was Dyer Island off Gansbaai, dwelling to a Cape cormorant breeding colony.

In response to Roberts, the precise variety of deaths was more likely to be far increased.

Earlier than the outbreak, there have been an estimated 57 000 Cape cormorant breeding pairs in South Africa. Nonetheless, the inhabitants had seen dwindling numbers during the last 30 years, with it declining by greater than 50%.

TMNP mentioned the variety of contaminated birds on the Boulders Colony “continues to be very low at this stage”.

“South African Nationwide Parks, Western Cape Veterinary Providers, Metropolis of Cape City, Sanccob and different seabird rehabilitation centres are intently monitoring the state of affairs and can assess the necessity for additional motion,” mentioned TMNP in a press release.

Controlling the unfold of the illness amongst wild birds can show tough, Roberts mentioned.

He mentioned:

Eradicating sick and lifeless birds from the surroundings can sluggish the unfold of the virus. One other manner to make sure that illness doesn’t have a critical impact on endangered birds is to deal with the opposite elements which can be inflicting stress to the inhabitants, and making certain that there’s a wholesome surroundings for them to dwell in, with enough nesting house and meals, and lowering disturbance and air pollution.

Regardless of the infections, the favored vacationer vacation spot will stay open to the general public – for now – based on authorities.

“TMNP and its conservation companions are taking precautions to scale back the unfold of the virus. This consists of limiting entry to the breeding colony, together with researchers, and making use of strict disinfection of footwear when workers depart the colony. Useless and sick birds can even be eliminated and transferred to Sanccob for evaluation and attainable testing,” TMNP mentioned.

The virus has a low danger for people, however is a menace to home poultry.

The virus is unfold amongst birds by faeces and different physique excretions, and by individuals dealing with sick birds.

“Despite the fact that the virus is unlikely to contaminate people, precautions needs to be taken. Gloves and masks needs to be worn if dealing with birds. Any gear, together with automobiles and protecting clothes that might be contaminated, needs to be disinfected,” mentioned TMNP.

TMNP mentioned closing the colony to guests “will not be justified at this stage”. Nonetheless, guests should keep on designated boardwalks and are urged to report sick or lifeless birds to TMNP administration.

“Affected birds are weak and should look tame, can not fly, present indicators of tremors or twitches and seizures or lack of steadiness, and one or each eyes could also be droopy or cloudy. Please don’t method, contact or deal with the birds,” mentioned TMNP.

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