Amazon World and Haven Falconry Bird of Prey Centre have closed after an outbreak of Avian influenza was confirmed on the Island on Wednesday (December 16).
The bird flu virus, which has a low risk to public health but is highly contagious and lethal for birds, was announced after the discovery of four dead swans over the past few days at Ryde Canoe Lake, which has now been cordoned off by police.
As the first vaccines for Coronavirus were rolled out on the Island this week, these businesses have now been forced to shut down for the third time this year due to the virus which affects both wild and captive birds.
A spokesman for Amazon World, Sandown, said: “2020 couldn’t get much worse. With the news of a case of Avian Influenza only five miles away, we have made the difficult decision to close for the rest of the year.
“This decision has not come easily and we have enjoyed seeing all your friendly faces over the last two weekends. However the safety of our birds is paramount and they will always come first.” A GoFundMe page has been set up to help secure their future (uk.gofundme.com/f/help-save-amazon-world-isle-of-wight).
The Haven Falconry Bird of Prey Centre is closed until, at least, March and has also set up a GoFundMe page (uk.gofundme.com/f/support-haven-falconry) to raise the help it needs to survive through the winter, otherwise it warns: “We may not be able to open again.”
The centre is home to more than 50 birds, a reptile and insect house, and pets’ corner. A spokesman said: “With very little funding available we are asking for as much help as possible to ensure the future of our beloved habitat.”
The outbreak was confirmed after a series of swan deaths at Ryde Canoe Park. A total of seven in the last two weeks had been reported.
Kay Ounsworth, of the Isle of Wight Wild Bird Rehabilitation Facebook group, has urged Islanders to stay away from the lake following the death of the swans. She warned: “Jim Baldwin, who does the bird count on the lake, says swan numbers have increased there in the last couple of months, along with large gull numbers. Canada geese and black swans have been seen there, as well as tufted ducks and mallard, and some are migratory.
“If these birds are dying due to bird flu, any movement in the area could spread it far and wide. Stay away from other waterways and farmland, especially where poultry are kept. Every bird could be at risk. Do not touch any dead or ailing birds at the lake.”
Paul Brownrigg, of Brownrigg’s Farmshop and Butchery, the largest poultry producers on the Island, said his business has already taken precautions against the virus. He said: “We follow the Government guidelines and were warned about a possible outbreak on Monday. We have around 6,000 free-range hens here but have now moved them indoors. This happened a few years ago, so we know how to deal with it.”
An Isle of Wight Council spokesman said: “We have received a confirmed AI (H5N8) notification on a wild swan at Ryde, which means that avian influenza has been confirmed in the area. As birds will move about this is not confined to any one location but could be present wherever wild birds gather.
“Avian influenza can be deadly to birds, but has little direct impact on humans. Public Health England advises that the risk to public health is very low, and the Food Standards Agency has said that, on the basis of the current scientific evidence, avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for UK consumers.
“Avian influenza is unconnected with Covid-19. As a precaution, the footpaths around Ryde Canoe Lake will be closed off.
“We ask that, for the good of the birds, visitors to Ryde Canoe Lake or nearby water bodies do not attempt to feed the waterfowl at this time, as this may attract them to locations where they could spread infection, especially in areas where domesticated birds might also be about.
“Anyone who finds dead wild birds should report them to the DEFRA helpline (03459 33 55 77).
“We strongly recommend that people do not handle dead wild birds at this time, but seek advice from DEFRA or, if the bird is on council land, report to the Isle of Wight Council on 821000.”
If a dead bird is found, these precautions should be followed:
+ do not pick up or touch sick, dying or dead poultry or wild birds;
+ avoid contact with surfaces contaminated with bird faeces;
+ avoid untreated bird feathers (such as those found in the environment) and other bird waste.