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Defra publishes new avian influenza in wild birds risk mitigation strategy

a dead wild bird

DEFRA and the Welsh Government have published a new document relating to the control and mitigation of avian influenza in wild birds.

The document outlines how the government is managing the high levels of avian influenza being found in wild bird populations across England and Wales.

See also: Avian Influenza Prevention Zone lifted

It also offers guidance for land managers, the public and ornithological organisations.

Mass die-offs of birds around the coast of the UK have been reported in recent weeks, with some critical colonies of rare seabirds impacted. During the current outbreak, more than 1,500 wild birds have returned positive results from over 360 locations and 61 species.

Britain’s seabird populations are of global significance, according to the RSPB. The UK is home to 56% of the world’s gannet population, and Scotland has 60% of the world’s great skuas.

Impact

The impact of avian flu on seabirds is particularly acute, as they tend to live for a long time and take longer to reach breeding age. They also usually have fewer chicks.

The new guidance advises land managers on how to make natural areas safe for the public.

Practical tips include adding signage warning visitors of the risk of avian influenza and what they can do to protect themselves and having contingency plans to allow them to respond to outbreaks quickly.

Defra biosecurity minister Lord Benyon said: “Our wild birds are facing exceptional pressures from avian flu this year, and we have seen the tragic effect it has had – particularly on our seabird colonies.

Rarer species

“I very much share concerns about the impact avian influenza is likely to have on breeding populations of wild birds in the future, particularly those that nest in large numbers and represent some of our rarer and much-loved species.”

“We are funding a world-leading science programme to try and better understand how avian influenza is spreading in wild birds and today’s guidance will help land managers, ornithologists and the public manage some of the issues we are facing.

“We will continue to work closely with partners to consider any further action we can take.”

The PDF can be found on the Defra website.

Current AI situation

CASES of highly avian influenza have been confirmed on a poultry farms in Yorkshire and the southwest of England demonstrating that the virus remains present in the environment.

The virus was confirmed on at a third premises – a small commercial poultry flock – near Cullompton, Mid Devon, on 26 August.

On 28 August, HPAI was found on a commercial flock near Bridlington, in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

And HPAI was also found on 29 August at a premises near Constantine, Cambourne and Redruth, Cornwall, as well as in captive wild birds (non-poultry) at a premises near Paignton, Torbay, Devon.