Topeka Zoo, Manhattan Sunset Zoo say their taking steps to protect resident birds from Avian Flu

Published: Mar. 14, 2022 at 1:49 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - As migratory birds begin their post-winter journey north, area zoos are ramping up efforts to keep the park’s waterfowl protected as they pass through.

The Topeka Zoo and the Manhattan Sunset Zoo said it is monitoring the progress of the disease, and taking steps to discourage attracting wild waterfowl to their ponds.

The highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI is affecting wild bird populations in the Midwest.

“We have a few Kansas in cases, not in Topeka, or in Shawnee County that we know of yet. So the zoo is taking precautions in case we do have to deal with a full-blown epidemic of influenza,” said Dr. Shirley LLizo, VMD.

The Topeka zoo says they are most concerned about their pair of Trumpeter swans and how exposure from migrating birds could put their health at risk.

The Topeka Zoo says they have emptied coin feeders where the public has been allowed to purchase food to feed the native ducks and geese. Officials say they are also making staff change shoes while entering different work-spaces and not carrying organic materials between bird habitats.

“We have stopped that because that will also attract the waterfowls so what we try to do now is trying to reduce the number of wild birds coming onto the zoo ground that could potentially affect our birds,” said Dr. LLizo. “To reduce the potential transmission, they are making sure they are not tracking the bacterial from one area to another that potentially affect our birds.”

“Our trumpeter swans because you’re in our pond, and they are our only waterfowl bird in the zoo that the zoo owns,” said Dr. LLizo. “These birds are endangered and they are the most vulnerable, or susceptible because they will encounter the drive to wild waterfowl that fly in and take a break in the water. They try to eat the swan food too as we are feeding the swan.”

The Zoo says they will take more stringent measures if HPAI establishes in Shawnee Co., such as moving some outdoor birds indoors. Also, closing the Tropical Rainforest will also be considered.

“We are in one of the flyways and they will land in the pond, and potentially as they land in the pond, they will encounter our resident birds and that is a way that they could transmit - whether who does saliva, nasal discharge, fecal matter,” Dr. LLizo said.

The bird flu outbreak in June 2015 forced all the county fairs to cancel their poultry exhibits, Dr. LLizo says it could happen again. “We do see a lot of wild birds, so there’s always that possibility,” she said. “So we have to be vigilant and monitor our own birds as well as the wild birds, especially if you find a dead bird. Certainly, in 2015, we took the same precaution, and at that time, we even brought in all trumpeter swans to be housed inside. it has not come to that yet but that is one of the actions we have to take.”

“While no cases of avian influenza have been found in our Zoo, we want to be sure we are taking precautionary steps to protect the birds at the Topeka Zoo,” said Brendan Wiley, Zoo Director. “The worst-case scenario is it showing up in our collection. We will keep you updated if it begins to have a more drastic impact on our operations.”

Manhattan’s Sunset Zoo also is taking precautions including closing their Australian walkabout and the viewing area for their Caribbean flamingos.

Manhattan’s Sunset Zoo says there is no active outbreak of the disease within Riley and Geary county, however, positive cases have been reported as close as Franklin County.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture is monitoring the situation.

Copyright 2022 WIBW. All rights reserved.