New Delhi zoo closed temporarily after birds die of bird flu

New Delhi zoo has temporarily closed after two birds died of bird flu. Pic AFP

"The presence of bird influenza was confirmed in two samples", a zoo official told IANS on the condition of anonymity.

He said this is for the first time that H5 avian influenza has affected birds. The government has also launched a helpline (011-23890318) on which people can report instances of unusual bird deaths. Rai said, "This matter is not just of the zoo".

An official says New Delhi's zoo has been closed temporarily after nine birds died from suspected bird flu last week. "If virus spread and its symptoms are spotted, we will put some restrictions", he further said. While the zoo authorities contested the number of deaths, they had cited rabies as the cause. A special team of veterinarians from Maharashtra will also visit the Delhi Zoo.

The National Zoological Park has been battling with a spate of animal deaths since early 2016. Rai will also hold a meeting with the stakeholders and take stock of the situation on Thursday. However, Delhi Zoo spokesperson Riyaz Khan rejected the need for culling.

Delhi's zoo is one of the biggest in India, and has an estimated 2.2 million visitors every year. As this is an open enclosure, they also fly off to nearby areas such as the Okhla bird sanctuary, Sultanpur or wetlands around the Capital.

The government said the situation was not alarming and precautionary measures were being taken.

The animal husbandry department procured 200 personal protective equipment (PPE) kits, which will be used by personnel who enter the zoo and other infected places. Dr Faiyaz A Khudsar, scientist-in-charge at the Yamuna Biodiversity Park in Wazirabad, said no such mortality has been reported from the facility.

Wildlife and bird experts on Wednesday advised against any panic in the wake death of birds at Delhi zoo, saying chances of the H5 avian influenza spreading among exotic migratory birds was very less. "The biggest carriers of H5N1 are the bar-headed geese that are yet to arrive".

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