Birds - Briefly - Spring 2008
Avian Flu Not Spread By Wild Birds
Dr. Scott Newman, international wildlife coordinator for avian influenza within the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, has confirmed there is no substantiation that wild birds are culpable for the spread of the highly pathogenic H5N1 virus from Asia to Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Speaking earlier this year at the Bangkok International Conference on Avian Influenza, he also said there is no evidence that wild birds are a reservoir for the virus, as many scientists first suspected. Carriage of H5N1 across large scale spatial distances, spreading to other birds and causing mortality in poultry flocks, has not been identified, Dr. Newman told the media. He also emphasized the need to direct attention to other factors, such as the poultry trade, and he recognized smuggling in particular, which may be spreading and sustaining the often-fatal disease.
As of April, Taiwan's cruel "wet" markets, at which live poultry are sold and slaughtered, are no longer legal. Horrific conditions typical at these markets were documented and exposed through a campaign by the World Society for the Protection of Animals |and the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan. Stacked in cages on top of each other, animals often struggled to move with broken wings and legs, and many were thrown into scalding tanks to be de-feathered alive. The ban will also help prevent the spread of avian flu.
On July 10, 1995, a ship named the Iron Baron grounded on Tasmania's Hebe Reef at the entrance to the nearby Tamar River, spilling 600,000 lbs. of fuel oil into the sea. Though many thousands of animals died as a result, including 10,000 to 20,000 penguins, a large wildlife rehabilitation program established close to the site was instrumental in saving many of the impacted species. One survivor, a Little penguin, was successfully rehabilitated and lived until this year-surviving more than twice as long as the typical 6.5 year life expectancy for the species. According to a band fitted to the penguin at the center, the animal was brought in as an adult, weighing 1.7 lbs., and released about two weeks later at 2.1 lbs. He continued to live in the area for over 12 years, and his body was found less than five miles from where he was released.
"It is an incredibly valuable record to get as it highlights that the massive wildlife rehabilitation efforts that are put in after oil spills can certainly be effective in reducing the impacts of a spill," said Rehabilitation Manager Mark Holdsworth, noting that over 100 volunteers assisted the efforts to clean, feed and house approximately 2,000 Little penguins taken in after the spill. Unless seabirds are treated immediately, even small amounts of oil on their plumage can be lethal, as it may cause drowning, hypothermia or acute toxicity, explained Dr. Rosemary Gales, head of wildlife and marine conservation at the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries and Water.