Western Cape avian flu oubreak sees seabird deaths top 21 000

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The Cape cormorant species remains the most affected by the avian flu outbreak in the Western Cape.
The Cape cormorant species remains the most affected by the avian flu outbreak in the Western Cape.
  • More than 21 000 birds have died in a Western Cape avian flu outbreak.
  • Most of the deaths have been among endangered Cape cormorants.
  • The spread of infections has slowed, but officials say cases may pick up if not monitored.

More than 20 500 endangered Cape cormorants have died in the Western Cape following an avian flu outbreak.

The outbreak, which was first recorded last month, has seen 21 172 wild seabirds dying. The majority of these birds were endangered Cape cormorants. The worst affected area is Dyer Island off Gansbaai, home to a Cape cormorant breeding colony, where 13 195 deaths have been recorded.

Before the outbreak, there were an estimated 57 000 breeding pairs in South Africa, said Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob) research manager Katta Ludynia.

Ludynia previously told News24 the Cape cormorant population had declined by more than 50% in the past 30 years.

READ | More than 18 000 birds die in Western Cape avian flu outbreak

According to Anton Bredell, Western Cape MEC for Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, the number of dead birds is decreasing, with less than 100 dead birds being recorded per day.

"The numbers remain low but constant at the moment. All efforts continue to manage the situation, with the primary focus on responding swiftly to areas where dead and sick birds are found, and then implementing a clean-up. We believe if the efforts are let up, the numbers may increase again so all our stakeholders continue to work hard to address the situation where it crops up," he said.

The Disaster Management Centre has urged residents across the province to continue to be vigilant and report unusual behaviour or mortalities among any birds to their local municipality, conservation authority or state veterinarian. The SPCA may also be contacted.

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