New Delhi park closed amid bird flu alert
City authorities have closed a sprawling park in the heart of New Delhi after eight birds died of suspected bird flu, days after the zoo in the Indian capital was closed to the public following the deaths of nine birds.
New Delhi's development minister Gopal Rai said eight bird deaths were reported to authorities on Thursday. These included two more at Delhi Zoo and two in the Hauz Khas Deer Park.
City officials said three dead crows were also found in a residential neighbourhood near the zoo. Post-mortem tests are planned on all the dead birds.
The zoo was closed to the public on Tuesday after tests confirmed at least three birds had died from H5N1 avian influenza.
Mr Rai said results from the birds that died on Thursday were not known yet but the government was taking the precaution of closing the park.
H5N1 poses no apparent threat to humans, but highly pathogenic strains can be deadly to domestic poultry and wild birds.
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 around northern India are crowded with migratory birds flying south for the winter.
Mr Rai said vacations had been cancelled for all employees of the city's animal husbandry department in case more dead birds are found.
Animal health officials visited the capital's main poultry markets and took samples from different batches of chickens on sale.
"We are closely monitoring bird sanctuaries, poultry farms and chicken wholesale markets," Mr Rai said.
Meanwhile, 15 storks have died over the past three days in a zoo in the central Indian city of Gwalior.
Zoo official Pradeep Srivastava said authorities were waiting for test results on the painted storks to determine if avian influenza was present before deciding whether to shut the zoo.