Nature reserves step up surveillance

WARDENS at nature reserves throughout East Anglia are stepping up surveillance of wild bird populations as experts tried to trace the origin of an outbreak of bird flu among a flock of factory-farmed turkeys.

WARDENS at nature reserves throughout East Anglia are stepping up surveillance of wild bird populations as experts tried to trace the origin of an outbreak of bird flu among a flock of factory-farmed turkeys.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust director, Julian Roughton, said officials were following advice issued by Defra and keeping a close eye on wetland reserves, particularly their geese, swan, duck and gull populations.

“So far we have not picked up any evidence of dead birds which from our point of view is reassuring,” he said.

RSPB spokesman, Chris Durdin, said staff were maintaining regular patrols at the Minsmere reserve near Saxmundham - about 15 miles from the Bernard Matthews farm at Holton.


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Similar patrols were being mounted at other RSPB wetland reserves in Britain - about 20 of which were in East Anglia.

“We have been monitoring wildlife at all our reserves very closely since the outbreak of bird flu early last year.

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“That is still going on today. To be honest, I'm not sure how much more stringent we could be. So far we have seen nothing on any reserves to give us cause for concern.”

Both the RSPB and the Suffolk Wildlife Trust are issuing advice to members of the public concerned about bird flu.

“It is extremely unlikely that bird flu could be transmitted to people by feeding birds in the garden.

“Humans can only catch bird flu if they have extremely close contact with an infected bird or its droppings. The risk of a nesting bird in your garden being infected is very small indeed,” Mr Durdin said.

Graham Appleton, of the Thetford-based British Trust for Ornithology, said its volunteers were surveying the coastal strip but there had been no sightings of unusual numbers of dead birds.

Several species of duck migrated to Britain through Hungary - where there had been an avian flu outbreak caused by the same virus - but the migration occurred in the autumn, not in December or January.

“In any case, if the turkey unit at Holton is bio-secure then it is hard to imagine how a wild bird is going to get in,” he added.

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