A team of veterinary doctors start collecting blood samples and droppings of birds from Alipore Zoo in Kolkata.
The samples would be tested in a government laboratory to check if the birds have been infected by Avian Flu (H5N1) virus that has already struck Delhi and Gwalior zoos.
“A team comprising three vets from the zoo and two specialists from the state animal resources development department collected around 40 samples of blood and bird droppings from the zoo. These were collected from inside the cages and even from the banks of the lake inside the zoo,” said AK Samanta, director of Alipore Zoo.
They collected samples of various birds, including water birds such as pelicans, storks, pheasants, spoonbills, ostriches and peacocks, among others. Samples of water from the waterbody were also collected.
The Central Zoo Authority – a regulatory body for all zoos across the country – had alerted all zoos in the country, including the Alipore zoo in Kolkata and Darjeeling zoo after some birds died of H5N1 avian influenza virus at the Delhi zoo.
Reports of bird deaths also poured in from Gwalior, triggering panic. The Delhi zoo has already been shut down temporarily.
The alert is two-pronged. Firstly, zoo authorities were advised to closely monitor the health of all birds – migratory, local and caged and immediately report if there are any deaths. Secondly, zoo keepers who are in-charge of the bird cages have been asked to be cautious and wear masks and gloves while collecting carcasses.
“We have already provided keepers, who are in-charge of the aviaries, with gloves, masks and aprons and have asked them to be cautious while handling birds. All the cages and the utensils in which the birds are fed are being disinfected. Disinfectants are also being sprinkled on the banks of the lake and on the island where the waterbirds congregate,” said Samanta.
The Alipore zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the country established in 1875 and has a collection of over more than 500 birds in a dozen aviaries. The lake also attracts a large number of migratory waterbirds.
Zoo officials, however, pointed out that unlike the Delhi or Gwalior zoos there has been no reports of any bird death or bird falling ill in Kolkata.