Zoos hiding birds as avian flu spreads in North America – The Montana Standard


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Magellan penguins stand in their enclosure at the Blank Park Zoo, Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Des Moines, Iowa. 
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Zoos across North America are moving their birds indoors and away from people and wildlife as they try to protect them from the highly contagious and potentially deadly avian influenza.
Penguins may be the only birds visitors to many zoos can see right now, because they already are kept inside and usually protected behind glass in their exhibits, making it harder for the bird flu to reach them.
Nearly 23 million chickens and turkeys have already been killed across the United States to limit the spread of the virus, and zoos are working hard to prevent any of their birds from meeting the same fate. It would be especially upsetting for zoos to have to kill any of the endangered or threatened species in their care.
“It would be extremely devastating,” said Maria Franke, who is the manager of welfare science at Toronto Zoo, which has less than two dozen Loggerhead Shrike songbirds that it’s breeding with the hope of reintroducing them into the wild. “We take amazing care and the welfare and well being of our animals is the utmost importance. There’s a lot of staff that has close connections with the animals that they care for here at the zoo.”
Toronto Zoo workers are adding roofs to some outdoor bird exhibits and double-checking the mesh surrounding enclosures to ensure it will keep wild birds out.
Birds shed the virus through their droppings and nasal discharge. Experts say it can be spread through contaminated equipment, clothing, boots and vehicles carrying supplies. Research has shown that small birds that squeeze into zoo exhibits or buildings can also spread the flu, and that mice can even track it inside.
So far, no outbreaks have been reported at zoos, but there have been wild birds found dead that had the flu. For example, a wild duck that died in a behind-the-scenes area of the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa, after tornadoes last month tested positive, zoo spokesman Ryan Bickel said.
A sign is displayed near a Magellan penguin outdoor viewing area redirecting visitors at the Blank Park Zoo, Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Des Moines, Iowa. 
Chief Marketing Officer Ryan Bickel walks through a shoe disinfectant as he enters a building at the Blank Park Zoo, Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Des Moines, Iowa. 
Most of the steps zoos are taking are designed to prevent contact between wild birds and zoo animals. In some places, officials are requiring employees to change into clean boots and don protective gear before entering bird areas.
When bird flu cases are found in poultry, officials order the entire flock to be killed because the virus is so contagious. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has indicated that zoos might be able to avoid that by isolating infected birds and possibly euthanizing a small number of them.
Sarah Woodhouse, director of animal health at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, said she is optimistic after talking with state and federal regulators.
“They all agree that ordering us to depopulate a large part of our collection would be the absolute last-ditch effort. So they’re really interested in working with us to see what we can do to make sure that we’re not going to spread the disease while also being able to take care of our birds and not have to euthanize,” Woodhouse said.
A sign is displayed instructing visitors of a closed bird exhibit at the Blank Park Zoo, Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Des Moines, Iowa. 
Among the precautions zoos are taking is to keep birds in smaller groups so that if a case is found, only a few would be affected. The USDA and state veterinarians would make the final decision about which birds had to be killed.
“Euthanasia is really the only way to keep it from spreading,” said Luis Padilla, who is vice president of animal collections at the Saint Louis Zoo. “That’s why we have so many of these very proactive measures in place.”
The National Aviary in Pittsburgh — the nation’s largest —- is providing individual health checks for each of its roughly 500 birds. Many already live in large glass enclosures or outdoor habitats where they don’t have direct exposure to wildlife, said Dr. Pilar Fish, the aviary’s senior director of veterinary medicine and zoological advancement.
Magellan penguins stand in their enclosure at the Blank Park Zoo, Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Des Moines, Iowa. 
Kansas City Zoo CEO Sean Putney said he’s heard a few complaints from visitors, but most people seem OK with not getting to see some birds. “I think our guests understand that we have what’s in the best interests of the animals in mind when we make these decisions even though they can’t get to see them,” Putney said.
Officials emphasize that bird flu doesn’t jeopardize the safety of meat or eggs or represent a significant risk to human health. No infected birds are allowed into the food supply, and properly cooking poultry and eggs kills bacteria and viruses. No human cases have been found in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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World Penguin Day is April 25. Here are some pics of the lovable birds:
A Gentoo penguin feeds its chick at Station Bernardo O’Higgins in Antarctica on Jan. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Seen through glass, a penguin looks out of the water in a pool in the zoo of Frankfurt, Germany, on Jan. 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
African penguins gather to keep warm as others are fed sardines by staff at the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds after they were found covered in oil on Robben Island, Cape Town, South Africa, on Sept 20, 2012. Some 200 penguins were found covered in oil following a spillage by a stricken bulk carrier. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)
In this Jan. 20, 2015 photo, a Chinstrap penguin stands on the coast near the town of Villa Las Estrellas on King George Island in Antarctica. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
In this Jan. 27, 2015, photo, penguins walk on the shore of Bahia Almirantazgo in Antarctica. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Penguins play soccer at the Hakkeijima Sea Paradise aquarium-amusement park complex in Yokohama, Japan, May 23, 2010. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)
Penguins dive into the water as an aquarium employee cleans the penguin habitat in Tokyo, July 23, 2007. (AP Photo/David Guttenfelder)
A woman directs penguins as they are released on the outskirts of Blouberg, South Africa, May 21, 2009. The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds released 84 African penguins back into the wild after they were treated for oil pollution that they obtained in Namibia. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)
Rockhopper penguins, usually living in sub-Antarctic islands, are seen in their enclosure as they ignore a zookeeper, not seen, holding fish to attract them in order to scan them in London Zoo, June 1, 2010. The photo opportunity was organized to mark the process of the annual scanning of the birds, which have been microchipped. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Dudley Wigdahl, a curator of marine mammals and birds, feeds a rescued Magellanic penguin at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif., April 7, 2011. Five Magellanic penguins arrived at the aquarium after they were rescued after being found stranded off a beach in Brazil. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Dudley Wigdahl, a curator of marine mammals and birds, looks at rescued Magellanic penguins at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif., April 7, 2011. The penguins were rescued after being found stranded off a beach in Brazil. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Veterinary nurse Sarah Papageorgiou cares for an Antarctic penguin that wound up stranded on a New Zealand beach and resorted to eating sand at Wellington Zoo in Wellington, New Zealand, June 27, 2011. (AP Photo/New Zealand Herald, Mark Mitchell)
A Rockhopper penguin swims beneath a colony of penguins at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, April 11, 2007. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Pierre the Penguin, 25, wears his wetsuit at the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, April 17, 2008. Pierre, who was going bald, began wearing a wetsuit and began growing back his feathers. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Kyoto, a three-week-old king penguin, nestles up to a toy penguin in the nursery at the Cincinnati Zoo, Aug. 21, 2008. The toy plush penguin was placed with Kyoto to simulate a parent. The baby penguin, taken from its parents and placed in the zoo’s nursery as standard procedure, was re-introduced to his family when his down feathers came in. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
Humboldt penguins enter the water area of their new habitat for the first time, April 7, 2009, at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Steven Sarro, right, the director of animal programs at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, looks over the African penguin colony in the birds’ new exhibit, May 27, 2009. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
In this photo taken June 21, 2011, a woman photographs an Emperor penguin lying on Peka Peka Beach along the Kapiti Coast in New Zealand. (AP Photo/New Zealand Herald, Mark Mitchell)
A penguin chick whose oil-encrusted feathers have been cleaned recovers in the South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds after being rescued from Robben Island in Cape Town, South Africa, Sept. 3, 2012. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)
In this Jan. 22, 2015, photo, a Gentoo penguin regurgitates food to feed its chick near Chile’s station Bernardo O’Higgins, Antarctica. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
A women watches penguins swimming at Taman Safari in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, Nov. 19, 2008. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)
In this undated file photo, a lonely penguin appears in Antarctica during the southern hemisphere’s summer season. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Jana)
In this June 30, 2000, file photo, an oil-stained penguin is seen in the water on Dassen Island near Cape Town, South Africa. (AP Photo /Obed Zilwa, File)
A rescued Magellanic penguin shakes water off at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif., April 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Rescued Magellanic penguins are seen at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif., April 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Associated Press Writers David Pitt contributed to this report from Des Moines, Iowa, Lindsay Whitehurst contributed from Salt Lake City, Julie Watson contributed from San Diego, Chris Grygiel contributed from Seattle and Tom Tait contributed from Las Vegas.

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Top photos of the day as selected by the Associated Press.
Magellan penguins stand in their enclosure at the Blank Park Zoo, Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Des Moines, Iowa. 
A sign is displayed near a Magellan penguin outdoor viewing area redirecting visitors at the Blank Park Zoo, Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Des Moines, Iowa. 
Chief Marketing Officer Ryan Bickel walks through a shoe disinfectant as he enters a building at the Blank Park Zoo, Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Des Moines, Iowa. 
A sign is displayed instructing visitors of a closed bird exhibit at the Blank Park Zoo, Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Des Moines, Iowa. 
Magellan penguins stand in their enclosure at the Blank Park Zoo, Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Des Moines, Iowa. 
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