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Migratory birds come under surveillance


                                                                                                                                                 The Hindu, Kochi, 30th January, 2015

K.S. Sudhi

Fears of recurrence of avian influenza epidemic have pushed the Forest Department to keep a tab on migratory birds that winter in Kerala.

Though the epidemic, first reported among domestic poultry in Alappuzha and Kottayam districts, had been contained, it was again reported at the government-run turkey farm in Kollam last week. Experts confirmed that the birds had died of H5N1 at the Kollam farm.

While fresh outbreak of the disease led to the death of 1,781 turkey birds at the farm, authorities culled 6,475 birds in an attempt to curb the spread of the disease among the local bird population. Around 2,000 other birds were culled outside the farm.

Veterinarians will collect droppings of migratory birds from the two nearby wetlands on Friday for scientific analysis, according to O.P. Kaler, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Biodiversity Cell).

Amit Mallick, State nodal officer, Avian Influenza Programme, said the monitoring of wetlands would be made part of the regular activity of the department with the formulation of the plan. Though a large number of migratory birds visit Kerala annually, they are not scientifically tracked. Precious little is known about their flyways and the areas where they spend time, Mr. Mallick said.

The department has approached birders and ornithologists seeking suggestions for formulating the surveillance plan.

Possibility of outbreak

The wetlands and wilderness areas of the State are among the preferred destinations of migratory birds. The possibility of outbreak of the epidemic among wild birds, especially waterfowls, cannot be ruled out, a communication from the department said.

An avian expert pointed out that the wetlands birds are monitored just once a year as part of the Asian Waterbird Census. There is no regular mechanism to keep track of these birds, he said.

A few birds shall be ringed or even radio-tracked as in the case of Amur falcons, which would help in effectively tracking their flyways.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/migratory-birds-come-under-surveillance/article6837188.ece