Over 10 500 endangered seabirds killed by avian flu outbreak in Western Cape, authorities say

African Penguins pictured at Boulder Beach in Simons Town, near Cape Town.

African Penguins pictured at Boulder Beach in Simons Town, near Cape Town.

Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

  • More than 10 500 endangered seabirds have died due to an outbreak of avian flu.
  • The outbreak has been concentrated in seabirds in the Western Cape.
  • Around 500 Cape cormorants are dying on Dyer Island, home to a breeding colony, daily.

Around 500 endangered Cape cormorants a day are dying of avian flu on Dyer Island.

Off the Western Cape coast, the island is home to a breeding colony of Cape cormorants and has been hardest hit by an outbreak of avian flu.

The outbreak was announced by the Western Cape government last week.

The disease appeared to be concentrated among sea birds in the western and southern parts of the province, News24 previously reported.

As of Friday, more than 10 500 Cape cormorants have died.

The country had less than 60 000 breeding pairs before the outbreak.

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According to Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell, Dyer Island remained the worst-affected area.

He added the outbreak remained a “very complex situation”.

“These are wild seabirds, and there are reports coming in from various areas across the coastal region of the province, which is a very large area to manage. We are very grateful for the teamwork and efforts given by multiple partners in managing this situation.”

Avian influenza is a highly contagious viral disease. There is no cure and no preventative treatment. Treating affected birds is futile and poses a serious risk of disease spread. Therefore, sick birds are euthanised.

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Bredell said reports of dead seals in some coastal regions were unrelated to the avian flu outbreak.

“Recent reports of dead seals found along some coastal regions are not currently a cause for concern as there is no evidence suggesting these deaths may be as a result of exposure to the avian influenza.

“The seal deaths appear to be a result of a lack of food rather than exposure to avian influenza. Nonetheless, the DFFE [Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment] is already urgently investigating the cause of mortality among seals, and we will report back on the findings when they do come through,” he added

The provincial Disaster Management Centre has urged the public to continue to be vigilant and report unusual mortalities in any birds to their local municipality, conservation authority or state veterinarian.


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