Sun International has placed its aviary facilities, situated at Sun City in the North West, and Meropa Casino in Limpopo, on high alert following the ruinous and highly pathogenic outbreak of bird flu currently infecting the poultry industry and more recently wild birds.
Tsogo Sun announced last week it was closing its Montecasino aviary after Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo (JPCZ) confirmed an outbreak at its facilities, with 581 carcasses being incinerated and 243 chicks and 110 deserted eggs found.
Sun International’s health and safety coordinator, Sheena O’Brien, said Sun City and Meropa had not been declared as areas of concern, but they had been placed on alert.
“Meropa and Sun City, to date, have not noticed a variance in bird deaths in the area, nor are they treating more birds than usual. Our properties will implement internal precautionary processes ,” she said.
O’Brien added that blue cranes, South Africa’s national bird and an endangered species, roam freely between the golf course and the hotel gardens.
“As a precautionary measure, we will temporarily close the bird aviary and continue to monitor our birds to ensure their protection. The protected species will also continue to be monitored.” Meropa Casino has a variety of bird species in aviaries.
“Their birds are monitored daily and if an animal is found to be ill, the local vet is brought in. An enclosed aviary facility is available where birds can be safely relocated should an outbreak of this nature occur in the area.”
Regarding food safety, steps have been implemented to ensure poultry is procured from safe and reliable sources, she added. Nearly four million egg-laying chickens at farms in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West, KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Free State are in the process of being culled, or have already been, costing the industry a whopping R800 million.
JPCZ said the seasonal migration of free-roaming birds had spread the virus to its parks.
“This is evident in various parts of the country, including in the City of Joburg, around the Westdene Dam, Emmarentia Dam, Zoo Lake and the Joburg Zoo,” it said.
According to Bird Life SA, the white-winged flufftail species is at most risk of becoming extinct due to the outbreak of the H5N8 strain of bird flu. With only 250 white-winged flufftail birds left globally, 50 of these in SA, Birdlife SA said there is a “real risk” if the species is infected with the virus.
Wetland birds, like the flufftail, were most at risk because the virus spreads easily in aquatic environments, hence Joburg water spots were affected, it said.
The whitewinged flufftail is an endemic resident of Africa and is only known to occur in the high-altitude wetlands of SA and Ethiopia.
According to the SA Poultry Association, bird flu entered the country via wild ducks migrating from Europe to the Western Cape.
The World Health Organisation said the H5N8 strain of bird flu did not affect human health. – firstname.lastname@example.org