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11 Dec 2023, Edition - 3072, Monday

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Avian flu prompts increased surveillance on migratory birds

Jiji Ann Cherian


Kochi: With reports of avian flu affecting ducks in and around Alappuzha, the state has stepped up surveillance measures on migratory birds in many areas, including the Thattekad bird sanctuary, a birdwatchers’ paradise in Kochi.

Though the source of infection is yet to be confirmed, the onus is on migratory birds as the flu has come at the time of the year that birds migrate to the state from different parts of the world. “Around the same time last year too, the state was under the grip of a bird flu and huge flocks of ducks were culled in Kuttanad to contain the infection,” says Abhilash, a birdwatcher at the Hornbill Camp in Thattekad, which houses the renowned Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary. But he says that no symptoms of bird flu has been noticed at the sanctuary, which is home to birds like ashy drongo , black baza and flycatcher from the Himalayas and the northeast during this time of the year.

The birds that come in mid-October stay on till March. Even the sanctuary has special bird monitoring cells to observe them for avian flu and other diseases.

The influx of birds has also added to the worries of forest department officials, who have been asked to look for sick birds with droopy wings, swollen eyelids and no appetite.”The animal welfare department has put the blame on Siberian pelicans, but the species is rarely seen here,” says Shivkumar, a senior official at WWF, Thiruvananthapuram, involved in the documentation of migratory birds.

“None of the samples of blood taken from migratory birds have tested positive so far,” he adds, stating there are chances of the infection being spread from poultry brought in from other states.

As panic grips places around Alappuzha district, the animal welfare ministry has reported that 1,176 infected ducks were culled on Wednesday.¬

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