With the second wave of avian influenza killing at least 110 migratory birds over the past two weeks at Pong Lake in Kangra district, Himachal Forest Department on Wednesday issued an alert in the state and directed all divisional forest officers to maintain active surveillance in their jurisdiction.
11 more carcasses of migratory birds were found at Pong Lake on Wednesday taking the toll to 110 at the wetland due to bird flu. H5N8 virus strain has been confirmed in the second wave of outbreak in the hill state.
The deaths have been reported in two migratory species namely Bar headed Geese and Greylag Geese at Pong.
Atleast 5006 migratory birds had died till February in the first wave of avian influenza- H5N1 that had hit Pong wetland.
In a letter to all CCFs/CFs and DFOs across the state, HP Principal CCF (wildlife)-cum-Chief Wildlife Warden, Archana Sharma on Wednesday directed to maintain strict vigil in and around wetland areas where migratory birds are present.
All the field officers of HP Forest Department shall report any unnatural behaviour or unnatural death of wild birds or animals to the office of PCCF (WL), the letter said.
The affected birds display symptoms such as tremors, diarrhea, head tilt and paralysis. The disease spreads quickly causing paralysis and staggering, it stated.
While dealing with dead birds or animals, proper protective measures should be taken like using gloves, masks etc and samples of suspected dead birds may be sent to RDDL Jalandhar. Advisories from various agencies of the State Government in this regard should be compiled with, the letter added.
Rahul Rohane, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Wildlife Division, Hamirpur while talking to The Pioneer said, “Till now, 110 migratory birds have died since March 25 due to bird flu and carcasses of ten more migratory birds were found on Wednesday at Pong Lake.”
Rohane said that the Pong Lake had been closed for the visitors and the forest guards have been asked to keep a strict vigil in and around the wetland.
Notably, the fresh waterfowl count at Pong Lake has recorded 13528 birds at the wetland.
Every year, more than one lakh migratory birds of over 100 species from Siberia and Central Asia descend on Pong wetland for their winter sojourn.