Marwell Zoo closes tropical bird house and other areas to ward off bird flu outbreak in Hampshire

SPREADING bird flu has caused a Hampshire zoo to close one of its most popular exhibits.

Thursday, 10th February 2022, 11:06 am
Updated Thursday, 10th February 2022, 11:50 am

Marwell Zoo is shutting its tropical bird house as a ‘precautionary measure’ to protect endangered species from a highly contagious avian influenza.

The virus has not infected the zoo as of yet, and strict procedures are in place to prevent any disease from spreading and safeguard the birds.

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No cases of bird flu have been confirmed Marwell Zoo, but the park is within a 10km surveillance zone.

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James Cretney, chief executive of Marwell Zoo, said the outbreak is another setback after a nine-month closure caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said: ‘This couldn’t have come at a worse time for us.

‘Just as we’re trying to get back on our feet for what we hoped would be the first normal year since 2019, we learned that like many other businesses, we are now part of an Avian Influenza Surveillance Zone following a confirmed case in Bishop’s Waltham.

‘Whilst the welfare of our large bird collection is a priority, this will no doubt be disappointing news for many of our guests.

‘We thank all our guests and members for their support and hope they will continue to visit us during this time.’

Mr Cretney added the changes were taken in line with national legislation and guidance.

Avian flu is a disease which spreads among birds and can be passed on to humans.

This winter, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), has diagnosed more cases of bird flu than in any previous UK outbreak.

A 3km protection zone is currently in place, which prevents poultry from being moved.

The wider surveillance zone covers Bishop’s Waltham, Hedge End, Twyford, Wickham, and a part of Eastleigh.

Both zones were put in place on February 4, with no current end date.

Marwell zoo is home to 140 exotic and endangered species of birds – including blue-crowned laughing thrushes and swift parrots.

The wildlife park, housing 2,500 animals, is outside of the declared protection zone but is within a 10km surveillance area.

As well as the bird house, certain walkthrough aviaries have also been close to reduce contact with wild birds.

Dr Sarah Jayne Smith, veterinary services manager at Marwell Zoo, said: ‘You will notice that some areas of the zoo are temporarily closed, to reduce the risk associated with contact between people and our birds.

‘Additional hand sanitisers, foot mats and foot dips have been put in place at all entrance points to the zoo.

‘If you see one of these on your journey through the zoo, please use it.

‘If you keep captive birds at home, who are usually outdoors, please postpone your visit to us.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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