Saturday 22 July 2017

Sprawling city park shut after eight birds died of suspected bird flu

A sweeper cleans a road inside the closed premises of the National Zoological Park in New Delhi, India (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)
A sweeper cleans a road inside the closed premises of the National Zoological Park in New Delhi, India (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

Authorities in the Indian capital have closed a sprawling park in the heart of New Delhi after eight birds died of suspected bird flu.

The move came days after the city's zoo was closed to the public following the deaths of nine birds there.

New Delhi's Development Minister, Gopal Rai, said on Friday that eight bird deaths were reported to city authorities on Thursday. These included two further deaths at Delhi Zoo and two birds found dead in the Hauz Khas Deer Park.

City officials said three dead crows were also found in a residential neighbourhood near the zoo. All the dead birds have been sent for post-mortem examinations to be carried out.

The zoo was closed to the public on Tuesday after tests on the birds confirmed that at least three had died from H5N1 avian influenza.

Mr Rai said results of tests on the birds which died on Thursday were not yet known but the government was taking the precautionary step of closing the park.

The H5N1 avian influenza virus poses no apparent threat to humans, but highly pathogenic strains can be deadly to domestic poultry and, rarely, wild birds.

Mr Rai said annual leave had been cancelled for all employees of the city's animal husbandry department in case more dead birds are found.

Animal health officials were visiting the capital's main poultry markets and taking samples from different batches of chickens on sale.

"We are closely monitoring bird sanctuaries, poultry farms and chicken wholesale markets," Mr Rai said.

The Hauz Khas Deer Park is home to hundreds of deer, peacocks and other birds. Described as one of the few "green lungs" of the highly polluted capital, the park is popular with joggers and walkers.

At this time of the year, bird sanctuaries, wildlife parks and water bodies across northern India are crowded with migratory birds flying south for the winter.

Press Association

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