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Bird flu is rampant again in Germany
Three dead swans on the Sweet Lake in Saxony-Anhalt have bird flu pathogens. This is unusual: in 2016, the first birds that died from the plague appeared in November.
The dead swans were found in the Mansfeld-Südharz district between Eisleben and Halle an der Saale. The responsible authorities have set up a restricted zone of three kilometers around the site and a larger observation zone.
For local people, this means that house poultry is compulsory, and dogs and cats are not allowed to run freely in the restricted area. Hunting for birds has to be approved.
Observation area nature reserve
The Salt Lake is in the observation zone. This nature and bird protection area has been owned by NABU since 2012.
Cases in Europe in summer
The last case of bird flu in Germany was documented in May 2017. At the beginning of July, however, there were cases of poultry farmers in Belgium, France and Italy. It also affects North and West Africa, East Asia and the Middle East.
From ostriches to chickens
The pathogen spread from an ostrich farm in the Cape Province of South Africa to chicken farms, so far 30,000 of the animals have died in South Africa and 110,000 others have been killed preventively.
Mute swans affected
In the wild, the H5N8 virus has so far only been detected in mute swans, such as Norwich in Great Britain in early August and two swans in Yverdon-les-Bains in Switzerland.
Danger to bird parks?
Bird parks and zoos that keep birds outside are particularly at risk of wild birds transmitting the virus. Free-living waterfowl are regular guests at the feeding places for swans, geese and ducks, for example in the World Bird Park in Walsrode.
Geese killed at Hagenbeck
In 2016, Hagenbeck Zoo in Hamburg had to kill geese after animals died of the plague in the zoo. The zoo in Kronsberg even closed temporarily after a dead pelican carried the H5N8 virus.
Danger to endangered bird species
An outbreak of bird flu in the Walsrode World Bird Park would have serious consequences for international species protection. The bird park breeds diverse species as the only zoological institution in Europe, and some species can only be seen here. In 2001, for example, five young miniature swans were raised, a species that is considered difficult to breed.
Extremely rare species
Species that are almost extinct in the wild, such as the snow crane, the helhokko, the horn guan, the maned and blue-eyed ibis from Madagascar or the Mindanao hornbill find a refuge in the world bird species.
The ducks, geese and swans, which are particularly at risk of being infected by bird flu, include rarities such as the plush-headed duck or the native bog duck, which is reintroduced into Germany with animals from the bird park.
Threat to the World Bird Park?
Until mid-October, many species are still in the outdoor enclosures in the World Bird Park and could be infected by wild birds there. Theoretically, an infection by visitors who carry pathogens on their clothing would also be possible.
No acute danger
There is currently no acute danger to birds in world bird parks and other zoological facilities. In contrast to winter 2016, no infections of zoo animals are known, and no further cases in Germany apart from the swans in Saxony-Anhalt. The current bird flu, the H5N8 pathogen, is not known to be infectious for humans. (Dr. Utz Anhalt; Somayeh Khaleseh Ranjbar)