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Vet fears Avian flu outbreak could wipe out entire species of endangered seabird

20 October 2021 4:54 PM
Tags:
Avian Flu
Avian influenza
Cape cormorant
seabird
bank cormorant
gulls
pelicans

Afternoon Drive host John Maytham chats to Sanccob veterinarian Dr. David Roberts about the spread of the avian flu outbreak to seabirds.
  • A serious outbreak of Avian flu has hit seabirds in the Western Cape
  • A wide range of seabirds, including pelicans, gulls, and cormorants has been affected
  • Seabird rescue group Sanccob has urged residents to report sick and dead birds to ick birds to local authorities
  • Sanccob veterinarian Dr. David Roberts warns that the outbreak could wipe out an entire endangered species of cormorants

Image: Rehabilitated Cape cormorants. Image: Sanccob/Facebook

The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob) says it's concerned about the impact of the Avian flu outbreak on endangered seabird populations.

A highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza, also known as bird flu, has been circulating in seabirds in the Western Cape.

According to Sanccob, the viral disease has affected and killed a large variety of seabirds, including pelicans, gulls, and cormorants.

Dr. David Roberts, a clinical veterinarian at Sanccob, says officials started noticing an increase in cases among Cape cormorants last month.

He says colonies, where Cape cormorants congregate, have been affected the most.

"This is rather tragic because they are an endangered species", he tells CapeTalk.

RELATED: Local birders asked to look out for ringed Cape cormorants after Sanccob release

Aside from the Cape cormorant and the white-breasted cormorant, Dr. Roberts says he's most worried about the risk that the outbreak poses to the bank cormorant which has a rapidly declining population.

"There are probably only 5,000 individuals left in the wild. And we could easily lose that entire species with an outbreak as severe as this" he warns.

He adds that the best way to control the outbreak is to humanely euthanise sick birds because the disease cannot be treated.

Conservation authorities, municipalities, and animal welfare groups are also removing carcasses and sick birds from public areas to mitigate disease spread.

"We are quite afraid that it could spread to the other cormorants and to other seabirds as well."

It seems to be confined now to the Western Cape, but all along our coastline where the people are looking -especially where there are breeding colonies of seabirds - they are finding sick birds and they are also finding them inland as well. Around the City of Cape Town, people are also finding them in their gardens.

Dr. David Roberts, Clinical Veterinarian - Sanccob

For the moment, Western Cape but we are worried about it moving into the Eastern Cape as well... We are seeing far more cases in seabirds.

Dr. David Roberts, Clinical Veterinarian - Sanccob

Our intervention measures are really everything we can do to reduce the chance of... spread to healthy birds. We're working with the conservation authorities and other people looking after these colonies to reduce the numbers of sick birds in the wild and the number of sick birds on the beaches.

Dr. David Roberts, Clinical Veterinarian - Sanccob



20 October 2021 4:54 PM
Tags:
Avian Flu
Avian influenza
Cape cormorant
seabird
bank cormorant
gulls
pelicans

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