Saturday, January 28, 2023

A rise in avian flu cases compels state aquariums to remove birds from public habitat

NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher has removed its bald eagle, Maverick, from its public habitat to ensure it does not come in contact with wild birds that may be carrying the avian flu. (Courtesy/NC Aquariums)

KURE BEACH — For the second time this year, North Carolina Aquariums are sequestering their birds for protection from the recent avian flu outbreak.

The animals will be taken out of their open-air habitats as a precautionary measure in response to new avian flu cases found in eastern North Carolina.

“Avian influenza is a highly contagious viral disease that can affect several species of birds, including domestic poultry and wild birds,” N.C. Aquariums chief veterinarian Emily F. Christiansen said in a press release. “This disease, if spread, could have devastating effects on poultry farms, both commercial and backyard flocks, and birds living in zoos, aquariums, and wildlife centers.”

Visitors to the state aquariums at Fort Fisher, Pine Knoll Shores, and Roanoke Island will notice temporary measures in place to protect the bald eagles and the screech owl from contact with wild birds.

  • The Aquarium team at Fort Fisher is caring for Maverick, the rescued bald eagle, and the wood ducks away from their public habitat.
  • At Pine Knoll Shores, the bald eagles Uwohali and Shagoie Watha will be moved from their public-facing habitat, Eagle Landing, and cared for behind the scenes.
  • On Roanoke Island, the ambassador Eastern screech owl, Napoleon, will temporarily be unavailable for public programs but will be safely available for virtual programs.

To further protect all bird species on site, the facilities have increased biosecurity for staff, including restricting access to teams who work with the feathered animals.

“Our visitors really treasure these beautiful birds at our Aquariums, and we are taking every precaution to ensure they stay safe and healthy, so they can quickly return to their habitats for everyone to enjoy,” North Carolina Aquariums director Maylon White said in the release.

The aquariums are waiting on word from the N.C. Aquarium Division veterinary team, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and the USDA about when it’s safe to return the birds to their public habitats.

No human infections from the avian flu have been detected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said transmission from birds to humans is very rare and considers any risk to the public to be low.


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