Bird flu scare: Mysuru zoo, Karanji Lake on alert

Biosecurity measures in place at the popular tourist spots after reports of bird flu outbreak in Kottayam and Alappuzha in neighbouring Kerala

The century-old Mysuru zoo and the Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary are on alert in the wake of reports of bird flu in neighbouring Kerala.

“Irrespective of the scare, bio-security measures are a permanent feature at the zoo and all protocols are being followed notwithstanding the reports. In view of the pandemic situation, more safety measures are in place,” said zoo Executive Director Ajit Kulkarni.

The zoo management has been adhering to the health and safety standards on a daily basis regardless of bird flu scare or no scare after the bird flu episode in January 2017 when the zoo had to be shut down for about a month as a precaution. The scare doesn’t matter much to it since all safety precautions are in place round the year. However, the general alert is in place following the directions from the government, especially with COVID-19 pandemic situation yet to be over.

The zoo has made it a practice since the last three years to send the blood samples and bird droppings for routine tests every month to the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases in Bhopal, one of the top labs in the country, after the 2017 incident. It has been maintaining the health data of all birds for three years.

“Now that there is a scare, we would send the samples once in 15 days instead of a month,” Mr. Kulkarni said, adding that the birds at the zoo and at the Karanji Lake Nature Park (where there is a walk-through aviary) are in good health with the vets and keepers screening them almost daily.

The zoo authorities are also keeping a watch on the migratory birds roosting at the Karanji Lake, which is a home to winged beauties that migrate to the water body. Biosecurity measures are in place in every bird enclosure at the zoo and at the park.

Three years ago, the zoo was shut to carry out biosecurity measures after it was hit by avian influenza (H5N8). The zoo was closed from January 4, 2017 to February 2, 2017 on the advice of the experts. The NIHSAD had confirmed avian influenza as the cause of the death of some migratory birds in December 2016. Never in the history of Mysuru zoo was it out of bounds for tourists for about a month.

Meanwhile, the Forest Department authorities in Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary are also on alert over the bird flu scare. The behaviour of birds nestling at the islands of the sanctuary are being watched and any unnatural death of birds would be reported to the higher authorities for remedial measures. The visitor area is being sanitised as a safety precaution.

“Surveillance has been stepped up not just in Ranganathittu but also in Kokkrebellur near Maddur where a lot of migratory birds roost. As of now, the birds appear to be in good health and no sick or dead birds had been noticed. The precautions will continue,” sources in the Forest Department said.

The villagers in the nearby areas had been told to inform the forest authorities in case of any death of birds in fields or water bodies near the bird sanctuary.

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