The Manipur government on Thursday began exterminating over 1.6 lakh fowls in a specified avian influenza-hit zone. Rain and medical check-up of the culling team delayed the exercise by over 10 hours.
According to Th Dorendro Singh, director of the State’s animal husbandry department, 19 teams comprising five members each fanned out to different poultry farms in the “danger zone” around 3.30 pm. Other than the weather, ensuring immunity to the exterminators belated the start of the operation.
“There’s no feedback from the teams yet, but they have been told to do the job as fast as possible,” Singh said from State capital Imphal.
All fowls—farm as well as local varieties—targeted for slaughter are within a radius of 5 km from the affected farm in the Chingmeirong area in Imphal East district. They include some 5,000 birds at the State-run Central Poultry Farm in the city’s Mantripukhri area.
The decision to cull the fowls was taken on Wednesday after the Bhopal-based High Security Animal Disease Laboratory and the Pune-based National Institute of Virology confirmed bird flu as the reason behind the “mystery deaths” of 132 chickens in Chingmeirong earlier this month.
A government spokesman said the culling order invited brief protests, but “we convinced poultry farm owners about the impact bird flu can have on humans”. The government, he added, would be paying poultry owners within the sanitization zone at least Rs 60 lakh as compensation.
The government has also appealed to all hotels and restaurants to stop selling strike chicken off their menus for the time being. Many eateries have refused to oblige, mainly because of the yen for ‘yen’—Manipuri for chicken.
Meanwhile, veterinary officials have not been able to ascertain the source of the avian flu virus that killed the fowls in the Chingmeirong farm. Officials had earlier suspected the virus might have come from adjoining Myanmar, grappling with bird flu since April.
“It’s still a mystery how the virus reached that particular farm while birds in adjoining farms testing negative,” a senior veterinary officer said.