Bar-headed goose H5N1 Qinghai 2006 - farming link?

Discovery of a dead bar-headed goose in Qinghai province (where major outbreak, killing thousands of wild birds, in spring last year), raises many questions.

One possibility - far from confirmed as yet - is that could be related to waterbirds being artificially reared.

Then, various questions - here from Richard Thomas of Birdlife International:

The rediscovery of H5N1 in Qinghai a year after the first report is indeed intriguing and throws up many questions. It recalls the two outbreaks in Lhasa poultry market, in January 2004 and then again, more than a year later, in August 2005. Both of these were traced back to the city of Lanzhou, according to FAO. [Indeed, according to ProMed, FAO traced the second of these outbreaks back to a commercial poultry factory in the city].

Were genetic tests carried out on either of the two Lhasa outbreaks to find out which strain was involved? Given the proximity of Lanzhou to Qinghai, and Lanzhou's key position on the Silk Road, I'd be very surprised if the strain wasn't the Qinghai strain, but it would be good to have this confirmed.

What was done to "clean up" Lanzhou after the 2004 outbreak was traced back there, and why did it fail (again) in 2005 (or did the city keep producing infected poultry/animal feed for 20 months)? Were any restrictions placed on poultry and chicken manure-based animal feed/fertiliser movements from Lanzhou in the mean time, particularly exports along the railway line to Eastern Europe?

Did the Bar-headed Geese in 2006 catch the virus because it survived in the environment from 2005, because Lanzhou re-supplied it into the environment (for example in infected chicken manure-based animal feed/fertiliser produced there), or because of on-going infections in wild bird populations? [Do we know if the dead geese actually had the virus, or antibodies to it? If the latter, they could be survivors from 2005 that died of other causes].

So many questions...I'm sure someone has the answers to at least some of them.

Post edited by: martin, at: 2006/05/18 08:45

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Puzzling - after no evidence of H5N1 on wintering grounds of bar-headed geese - and disturbing report:

[quote]The Ministry of Agriculture on Friday confirmed another case of bird flu outbreak among wild birds in a remote area of Northwest China's Qinghai Province.

Seventeen bar-headed geese were found dead on a wetland in Yushu County on April 23.

The number of dead wild birds had risen to 125 by Thursday, of which 123 were bar-headed geese, the ministry said on its website.

The national bird flu laboratory on Wednesday confirmed the dead birds were tested positive for the H5N1 strain, a highly contagious virus strain that had killed 12 people in the country.

The place where the outbreak happened is a high and cold area, located more than 800 kilometres away from Xining, the provincial capital, and Qinghai Lake, which is an important habitant of a vast number of migrant birds.

Yushu County, the nearest human residential area, is also more than 60 kilometres away.

The county only has sparse population and no domestic poultries are fed nearby, said the ministry.

No bird flu outbreak was reported in the province's domestic fowls.

The province's veterinary departments has sterilized the area and is keeping a close eye on any new cases, said the ministry.

Nearby livestock have been transferred to summer pastures far from the outbreak location.

Local authorities have demanded local herdsmen keep a distance from the dead birds to prevent the virus from contaminating human beings.

The outbreak is the second case found in the province in a month after a dead bar-headed goose in Gangcha County was found carrying the deadly virus last Saturday.[/quote]
[url=]Outbreak of new bird flu cases in Qinghai confirmed[/url]
"Wildlife -- Bantouyan [bar-headed goose]"

Ngan-eye, Ap Section. Qinghai-Tibet Plateau at an altitude of
2000-4000 meters of the shore of the lake and river island cliffs
human habitation, a brown sky, and after the fate of each villager a
clear "U" - shaped black bands streak, so called "Bantouyan." [Bar-headed geese, here in flock?]

Xiahou birds annually from the South move to mid-March, the winter
season has returned to the South. Qinghai Lake Diaodao this bird more
artificial incubation Bantouyan Diaodao management centres have been
successful. Their relatively docile temperament, size map goose eggs,
meat dish, down huge, irregular reeds and algae, plankton.

Notice here - last para - re pollution etc.
Could indeed be problems here, leading to troubles once H5N1 to area by poultry trade (legal and/or smuggling). Esp as seems poultry farming at same places.
"Bantouyan off off period for technology"

Bantouyan While keeping simple, breeding profit higher, but the low
rate of reproduction, laying a short, and therefore how to extend the
period allowed in the non-laying season is how to reduce the cost of
access to key high profits. Next will Bantouyan off perinatal farming
methods introduced to the reader.

1. To the water for drought support Although the surface can be
reduced by breeding Bantouyan cleaning workload, but would lead to
water pollution, summer water bodies become dark autumn release bad
odor, severely affecting Bantouyan health. Thus, at its July platoon
dry off postnatal water, cleansing and disinfection of the pond, then
the appropriate fish, the water lettuce, etc. for Bantouyan
consumption. At this time, more shade Bantouyan transferred to
dryland farming can Yashe (cut to the side wings), and 2 January 2000
of the wild geese and chickens before one month, then of the wild
geese and into the water.

2. Stop illumination, expected to visit Green Bantouyan generally
begin in December at additional illumination to stimulate their
chickens, but that should stop illumination on the post-natal,
maternity or not allowed to prevent its spring. In addition, during
the off-off, to prevent Bantouyan obesity may be feeding material on
the Green, to save feed costs. Conditional arrangements should be
planted in the fall and pasture.

3. For each species, feed savings Use Bantouyan 3-6 month allowed
only in the annual, and other types of characteristics for the month,
when the last batch of eggs End of the wild geese and off, leaving
part of the high-yield, quality of the wild geese and, when all
commodities should Ngan sale. When the end of April last Xiaoyan
incubation loss, the selection of good Xiaoyan When growth of the
wild geese and retained for 9-10 months to 2 years just after the
spring, when these Bantouyan have sexual maturity and begin laying.
Xiaoyan from loss due to the hens used all succulence of the wild
geese and chickens used as fodder half, and therefore significantly
save feed.

4. Good health, vaccination Bantouyan although more
disease-resistant, little disease, but cats, serious environmental
pollution, immunity decline, coupled with cross-infection of poultry
to significantly increase the incidence and therefore should be
closed off to a vaccination. According to the main vaccination Yawen,
cholera two of Miao, E. vaccines several major vaccines. Ngan good
health care while also picked regularly disinfected. Using surface
culture, but also leave in the summer, and the removal of soil water
dung, reservoirs be disinfected.

Also among reports inc bar-headed goose farming/artificial rearing.
Again, notice chicken farming too - here major increase, so presumably demand for chickens from other places.
"Lhasa City made to seize the opportunity to develop its railway industry"

This year, the city of Lhasa City on the economy of the farming and
animal husbandry zone focus, seize the historical opportunity to open
the Qinghai-Tibet railway, will further optimize the industrial
structure, vigorously develop animal husbandry zone industries.
Vigorously develop animal husbandry in rural areas and peri-urban
farming. Further accelerate dairy cow breeding base building, and
consolidate their existing dairy cow breeding bases, completed more
than 2,000 head of quality dairy cow imported. Completing the "double
hundred" breeding base-building, namely : the 6,672 jobs cards, Lin
Zhou 1 million only two counties Tibet Lhasa white chicken and
chicken-scale breeding bases and 100 million chickens base. Long
himself in sand, Dazi, Qushui, Chengguan District, pig breeding base
building, completed 100,000 sheep units short fattening cattle.
Develop aquaculture and other aquaculture industry in Qushuixian
building layer breeding base in a 6,672-card counties Bantouyan [=bar-headed goose]
breeding base, the use of local reservoirs, wetlands development of
fisheries and breeding. In Lhasa, the development of bee-keeping
demonstration households Qushuixian 50 households.

some human translations of selected info:
1 "Lhasa City made to seize the opportunity to develop its railway industry" 2006-04-25 To boost animal husbandry with arrival of Tibet railway, BHG breeding base (for poultry/eggs) established in Gongka [Meldrogonkar] county which has wetlands and reservoir also suitable for aquaculture.
2 "200 only Bantouyan return to nature" Yesterday (Aug 29, 2005) 200 BHGs were released at Lhalu wetlands, move aimed at increasing awareness of importance of nature and natural harmony and increasing spp at Lhalu and sustainable development. The birds were reared in Lhasa, given free by company to mark opening of Lhalu national reserve.
3 "China's first successful artificial breeding of wild Bantouyan" China artificially rears BHGs for first time, 300 in southern mountains. Head of local livestock bureau Wang Huaiting said herders gathered over 300 abandoned eggs near Yamzho Yumco Lake (one of three sacred lakes) 
success rate was 99% and 100% reached maturity. They now weigh over 2kg. Numbers have dropped in wild because of environmental degradation, only remaining site is Yamzho Yumco where there are 30,000 birds. Wang said after they have bred on large scale some will be released in wild, this year (2003) local authority plans to build a three mln yuan (£200,000) (this is not 300 mln yuan!) wild BHG breeding centre based entirely on habitat of wild birds. (Implies that birds will also be bred for meat/eggs).

info from US based researcher and analyst:

In Thaliand, link shown between free-grazing domestic ducks and H5N1 distribution (more where free-grazing ducks present; however, with control measures, appeared H5N1 died out in duck flocks too).

Interesting, then, that China is using troops of ducks to devour locusts on grasslands in northwest [Xinjiang, Qinghai, Inner Mongolia].
[url=]Duck patrol advances on China's locusts[/url]

From Richard Thomas of Birdlife International:

Another batch of Bar-headed Geese farming summaries.

It's very interesting that the artificial breeding programme at Qinghai
Lake has partly changed the species's migratory habits - it means the
practice must have been taking place for some time; I wonder how it's
changed their habits precisely. It'd be interesting to know what the
birds are fed on as well: animal feed from the Lanzhou factory

"Ngan and management of domesticate"

This is a relatively detailed analysis of benefits of BHG
meat/eggs/breeding methods, here is just an outline - Meat protein
content 20.98% which higher than chicken/beef/pork, eggs can be cooked
in various ways, feathers can be used for shuttlecocks, down for
clothing, meat for medicine, can treat cancer (!!!). Behaviour
migratory (doesn't say if this a problem in domesticating them), pair
for life, docile, vegetarian, disease resistant, lay 7-25 eggs, take 31
days to hatch, m/f hatch in equal numbers when artificially reared, lay
after 10 days, one every 2/3 days, lay about 15 in first year, increases
up to 25 in years 2-6. Artificial incubator best, 38-38.5C, gives
details, also of coop (other article said can be bred outside), food.
Best sold at over 60 days old...


An artificial hatching centre and semi-underground viewing room has been
built at Qinghai lake, artificial rearing has partly changed their
migratory behaviour.

"Tibetan Nagqu artificial domesticated wild Bantouyan success"

Following the success in Shannan (southern mountains, ie Yamzho Yumco
Lake, abt 100 km S of Lhasa) there is now good news from Xainza county,
Nagqu prefecture (about 300 km NE of Lhasa), 500 BHGs have been bred
successfully, have met market demand. They are being exploited
reasonably, protecting a natural resource, great step forward for
adjustments in husbandry.

again from Richard Thomas:
"Bantouyan off off period for technology"
This article stresses the probs of domesticating Bar-headed Geese. Although rearing BHG is simple and profits are high, they breed slowly, have a short laying period, so extending laying period and cutting costs in non-laying period is key to increasing profits. Here are some ways of rearing them in non-laying period:
1. Moving them to dry land - Although raising them on water can cut cleaning work, it increases dirt, smell, has serious effect on their health. So land should be drained in July when they stop laying, pond should be cleaned and disinfected so can be used for fish breeding and growing lotus as food for BHG. They should be moved into dry sheds (and clip wings) to bring forward laying season by one month to next January and put breeding birds back on water.
2. Stimulate laying by artificial light in evening in December, but artificial light should be stopped after non-laying period to stop them from not laying or decreasing laying in spring. To stop them putting on excess weight in non-laying season feed should be changed mainly to green food which will cut costs.
3. Only lay between March and June, so all but best layers should be sold. After last chicks hatch late April, the best should be kept as breeding birds and kept for 9-10 months. From hatching to laying consume only half as much green feed as laying hens, which saves on feeding costs.
4. [b]Although (naturally) disease resistant they quickly cause serious pollution which reduces their freedom from disease, also catch infections from domestic poultry, causing their disease rate to rise sharply[/b], so must vaccinate outside laying season (gives details). Must also keep coops clean and disinfect them. Birds kept on ponds, water should be changed in summer and their faeces cleaned out, pond thoroughly disinfected.

There's even a mention of this website in the news item; though not quite correct - the info was first from a Japanese researcher, posting to a newsgroup re poultry flu and conservation. I pasted some posts into this thread; Richard Thomas of Birdlife International - who started the newsgroup - sent more messages to the group, which I added as well.
Still, good to see this story; and check out the quote from Juan Lubroth of FAO!

[quote][b]Chinese admit breeding wild birds near Qinghai Lake.[/b]

The hypothesis that migratory birds are responsible for spreading
avian flu over long distances has taken another knock. Last year, an
outbreak of the deadly H5N1 strain in thousands of migratory birds at
Qinghai Lake in western China provided what seemed the first firm
evidence for the idea. Because the lake is so remote, experts assumed
infected birds had flown up from southern China.

But it has now emerged that, since 2003, one of the key migratory
species affected, the bar-headed goose, has been artificially reared
near the lake. The breeding farms -- part of an experimental
programme to both domesticate the birds and release them to
repopulate wild stocks -- raise the possibility that farmed birds
were the source of the outbreak.

Roy Wadia, a World Health Organization (WHO) spokesman in Beijing,
agrees that, if confirmed, the finding is "important", as changing
the breeding practice might help control the infection.

Yi Guan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong, co-authored a
Nature paper last July that suggested migrating birds caused the
outbreak (see Nature 436, 191?192; 2005). Guan says he had heard
rumours of the programme when he submitted his paper, but couldn't
confirm them.

There is no proof that China's breeding programme caused the Qinghai
outbreak, but it does raise questions, he says. "The cultivation of
bar-headed geese increases the chance for these birds to mix with
infected domestic poultry."

Ironically, the breeding programme was revealed by Chinese press
agencies reporting on the government's efforts to boost agriculture
and the environment in the region ahead of the opening of the
Qinghai-Tibet railway in July; the railway is expected to promote
tourism and economic growth.

Richard Thomas of BirdLife International in Cambridge, UK, spotted
the press cuttings, and posted English translations to a blog
( Whether farmed migrant birds
caused the outbreak or not, it's a "cautionary tale", says Ken
Shortridge, a veteran avian-flu researcher in China. He argues that
such a programme does not sufficiently take into account the threat
of H5N1.

The idea that migrating birds didn't carry the virus to Qinghai after
all would fit with other recent evidence. [b]Juan Lubroth, a senior
animal-health officer at the UN Food and Agricultural Organization
(FAO), says he is now sceptical that migrants can carry the virus
over long distances.[/b] For example, the current spring migration from
Africa to Europe is almost over, with no sign of outbreaks. The FAO
has also checked 20,000 wild birds in Africa and found no H5N1.
[url=]Blogger reveals China's migratory goose farms near site of flu outbreak[/url]

from Tibet info site (presumably taken in Tibet),

Migratory birds die of flu in Qinghai, Tibet
SOME dead wild birds found in Qinghai Province and Tibet Autonomous Region have tested positive of the H5N1 bird flu, the Ministry of Agriculture said today. A total of 399 deceased migratory birds were found in Tibet's Nakchu area and Qinghai's Guoluo Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. The two areas are on the same bird migration route as Qinghai's Yushu County, where the ministry confirmed earlier this month that more than 100 wild birds died of the deadly virus. noted by Japanese researcher re the Tibet site: This is one of best documented regions where BHG are artificially bred (cf. aiwatch #2098)
"Tibetan Nagqu artificial domesticated wild Bantouyan success" Following the Shannan area Bantouyan artificial domesticated wild success, recently, also transmits news Xainza County, Nagqu Prefecture. Manual procedures for the county rare fowl bred for the 500 wild Bantouyan growing trend well, the listing requirements are met. So far, Shen Norte County in the rational use, protection of wild birds in resources to vigorously develop aquaculture, and promote the strategic restructuring of the livestock has made great strides, providing a vast space.

also from Japanese researcher: "utilisation of discarded eggs" suggests methods in line with the report of the first artificial breeding in Lhasa.
"Ramsar Information Sheet" 3. Name of wetland: Qinghai Bird Island National Nature Reserve (Niao Dao) 25. Current scientific and research facilities: Artificial incubation of Bar-headed Goose (Anser indicus) and study on the utilisation of discarded eggs; bird banding etc., the establishment of laboratories for bird raising.

As well as possible connection to H5N1, must also wonder about conservation implications of such projects, especially if occupy significant amounts of natural habitats.
"Shannan rare wild animal breeding area development projects"

1, project background and resources

Shannan area rare wild animal resources extremely rich, only one
country, more than 700,000 species of animals secondary protection,
including musk deer, black bear, Malu and Bantouyan, Chek Maya,
Hemaji, Zangma chickens have easily domesticated characteristics.

Regional head of the county-owned nature reserve in Tibet only Malu,
the local people also have artificial domesticated wild Malu
tradition. Nga eye and the vast majority of natural waters wild
Bantouyan large number of researchers in this area Forestry Bureau
two artificial breeding of rare animals made a lot of attempts, made
significant progress. Second, the content and size of the main

(a) wild Malu, musk deer, black bear, brown breeding base.

(b) wild Bantouyan, Chek Maya, Hemaji, Zangma chicken eggs and
breeding bases. Third, the market analysis

(1) markets in the region : Because of Sichuan habits, living in
cities of the Tibetan diet has been basically completely close
Sichuan, Tibet in recent years coupled with the rapid development of
tourism, local native products developed enough food, as long
transportation lines, the high cost of transport, purchase of
specialty food prices have remained high, Tibet's native products of
the food market in the region have great market demand. Thus,
domesticated and breeding Bantouyan, Malu have better market

(2) outside the market : the Tibetan wild domesticated animal food
with clean natural green effect.

4, investment estimates
The total investment is expected to reach 600 million.

5, - benefit analysis
Artificial domesticated wild animals in addition to providing
features Game meat, bear bile, musk, velvet and whip, blood products
and other traditional medicinal herbs are precious and have high
economic value; Wild poultry high protein, low fat, the meat is
excellent, the people are like, after finishing the outside market
can not be belittled.

6, cooperation
Business enterprises or sole proprietor holding.

7, business units : Shannan region of Tibet Forestry Bureau