It’s taken way too long, but at last more concerted efforts by conservationists to try to put record straight re migratory birds and H5N1.
likely culprit in spreading bird flu than wild migrating birds, some
of the world’s top wild bird experts said Friday.
Bird flu has spread from Asia throughout Europe and Africa, but it
hasn’t yet reached North America.
“Wild bird monitoring is important, but the real threat comes from
trade in poultry,” John Flicker, the National Audubon Society’s
president, said after a Capitol Hill briefing.
Peter Johan Schei, director of Norway’s Fridtjof Nansen Institute and
chairman of BirdLife International, a global alliance of conservation
organizations, said the United States and other governments should
boost trade protections but not lessen attention to bird migration
Schei and Leon Bennun, BirdLife International’s science policy
director, agreed that illegally imported poultry and other animal
products pose the most immediate risk.
“It doesn’t mean we have to stop monitoring wild birds,” Bennun said.
Senior U.S. administration officials have said they, too, worry about
the bird flu arriving through the estimated $10 billion US global
trade in wild animals, pets and animal parts. Hundreds of federal
agents from several government agencies are policing borders, ports,
airports and other places.
Graham Wynne, head of Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of
Birds, said it’s not just a U.S. problem.
“Virtually every government around the world is putting too little
emphasis on trade and poultry,” Wynne said. “You really can’t do too
much vigilance on the movement of poultry products because that’s
going to be the most likely route in.”
Wild bird experts say the virus appears to be spreading along trade
routes. They point to Africa’s first cases of bird flu, which were
discovered at a farm in Nigeria in February.
“Most of these outbreaks have not been directly related to the
migration of birds,” said Lim Kim Keang, head of the Nature Society’s
bird group in Singapore. He cited the daily smuggling of an estimated
4,500 chickens into Vietnam from China. The H5N1 virus has shown up
in samples taken from some of the confiscated birds.
Too much remains unknown about the virus, Bennun said. “That means
people are working largely on assumptions, and assumptions can be
dangerous,” he said.