The zoo has moved highly vulnerable bird species into protected indoor housing.
SEATTLE — As a highly contagious and deadly strain of bird flu continues to spread across Washington state, Woodland Park Zoo is taking precautions to protect vulnerable birds from exposure.
As of May 12, there have been no cases of pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), a strain of H5N1, at the zoo.
The zoo has moved highly vulnerable bird species into protected indoor housing. These birds include raptors, peacocks, penguins, flamingos, cranes, chickens, related species, and waterfowl. In cases where birds could not be moved indoors, temporary tarps or roofs were placed over the enclosures.
“Because bird flu is transmitted by contact with infected wild birds or their faeces, moving birds in and out of any other birds is the safest control measure we can take,” said Dr Tim Storms, director of animal health at Woodland. Park Zoo. “This is an alarming disease for birds with a high mortality rate and requires proactive measures.”
Cages are closed to visitors until further notice to reduce risks to birds inside. The zoo has also suspended close contact with the ambassador’s birds, such as owls, hawks and other birds of prey. The Wildlife Theater will exclude free-flying birds from its programming. The Tropical Rain Forest building has been closed due to its roving cage, which serves as a walkway for visitors exiting the building.
“We know that many of our visitors will be disappointed that they will not be able to see birds that are most at risk for bird flu, especially penguins and the iconic flamingo,” said Sherry Horizney, chief operating officer of Woodland Park Zoo. “We are confident that our visitors and members will understand that we have the interests of our animals in mind and understand our decision to keep our birds indoors and protect them from highly contagious and potentially deadly bird flu. We have many other captivating animals for visitors to enjoy, such as the new sloth bear cubs, and otters, and big cats and playful young gorillas.”
Highly virulent avian influenza is highly contagious and fatal in chickens and is currently spreading throughout poultry flocks in the United States. Since the first H5N1 case was announced in Washington state on May 5, at least six counties have confirmed confirmed infections and several other suspected cases are being investigated, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPAI has a mortality rate of 90-100% in chickens, affecting multiple internal organs and causing death within 48 hours.
As of late April, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has recorded animal infections in more than two dozen states.
If bird owners notice any signs of influenza, including many sick birds and sudden deaths, they are asked to call the WSDA’s Sick Bird Hotline at 1-800-606-3056 or visit the department’s online reporting tool.