After the outbreak of bird flu in Himachal Pradesh, the state’s Department of Animal Husbandry has collected swab and blood samples of birds of different species from the state-run zoos and breeding centres for testing.
The joint teams of Department of Animal Husbandry and Wildlife Wing of Forest Department have collected the samples from birds in zoos and breeding centres in the state. The samples were collected as a precautionary measure after the directions of the State Government.
As many as 4742 migratory birds have fallen victim to the deadly avian influenza- H5N1 at Pong wetland in Kangra district.
Apart from this, more than 230 native birds were also found dead in various parts of the state since the outbreak of bird flu. These included crows, vultures, pigeons, common myna among other native species.
“The State Government has launched an active surveillance in zoos, breeding centres and wildlife sanctuaries in the state.
Samples from birds in zoos and breeding centres have been collected and sent for bird flu testing as a prevention and control measures,” said a senior official of Wildlife Wing of Forest Department, Himachal while talking to The Pioneer.
The official said that samples from birds are collected from zoological parks at Kufri, Renuka and Gopalpur and aviaries (pheasantries) at Sarahan and Chail. While some samples are already tested negative, few reports are still awaited, he said.
There are bird species namely Red Jungle Fowl, Peafowl, Pigeons, Pheasants, among others at these zoos.
The breeding centre for the threatened Cheer Pheasant at Khadiyun, Chail, which is also their natural habitat, currently has around 56 birds being raised in enclosures. The Sarahan Pheasantry known as Western Tragopan Conservation Breeding Centre has about 45 Tragopans, a species notified as vulnerable on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) red list of threatened birds globally.
Amid the bird flu alert and nationwide effort to contain its spread, ten states namely Delhi, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Gujarat have reported cases of avian influenza.
In Himachal, hundreds of migratory birds have been found dead each day at the Pong wetland since December 29. On January 4, the samples of dead birds were tested positive for avian influenza- H5N1.
The bird flu has been reported for the first time at Pong Lake, which hosts more than one lakh winged guests during winter season. This year also, around 60000 migratory birds had reached the wetland for their winter sojourn.
The senior official said that 105 migratory birds of different species were reported dead from Pong Dam Wildlife Sanctuary till January 13 afternoon. The death toll of migratory birds at Pong has reached 4742 due to bird flu, he said.
There is a significant reduction in mortality numbers of migratory birds at Pong in the last 24 hours. The rapid response teams of wildlife wing continue to comb the Sanctuary area extensively for collection and cleaning the area of dead birds and disposing the carcasses as per protocol, he said.
The daily monitoring of control and containment operations is being done by the office of Principal CCF (Wildlife).
The Department is ensuring that all the field staff involved in these operations are provided with personal protective kits and biosafety measures are followed as per protocol.
Sufficient stock of protective kits, sanitizers and disinfectants are also being maintained to meet out any exigency, he added.