Martin W

email from Nial Moores of Birds Korea:

Species like Garganey can switch wintering areas from India to eastern Africa dependent on wetland availability, according to Bird families of the World. However, as Martin suggests most logical is that Garganey from western Europe migrate to western Africa, leaving Europe in ca October and returning in late March.

Is this correct: this latest outbreak is in western Africa in mid-winter, months after wild birds from western Europe (a region without H5N1) migrated there; in chicken battery farms. Those suggesting wild birds are at the cause of spread should first identify (with supporting data) which species were responsible (birds from affected regions like Turkey???, arriving in Nigeria in late January as virus so virulent: which species? None); explain why outbreaks in wild birds have not been detected there (possible?); and explain the exact mechanism how wild birds came to infect poultry (possible?).

Concentrations of poultry and caged birds, time and time again, have been shown to be the viral factories for H5N1,and Nigeria has been ramping up its poultry production with the aim of becoming a net exporter. At least as late as 2002, local producers were worried about the amount of illegal poultry imports/trade (see URL below).

Large-scale concentrations of poultry often lead to environmental contamination (run off and manure heaps), and provide the only logical hypothesis for infection of non-migratory scavenging wild birds. Is it supposed to be more rational that wild ducks somehow fly into the chicken pens, excrete there without being noticed so that they infect the poor poultry, and then fly off again?

In 35 years of birding I have seen one wild duck in a free-range chicken pen once – on an offshore island in Korea where there was no other duck habitat, not near some wetland where there would be plenty of natural food available for wetland species without the risk of being hunted by people. It does just not make common sense, and is not supported by any evidence – so why even start to make such an assumption before considering movement of poultry first, caged bird trade second.

Need to repeat too, sadly how can anyone ever anywhere disprove it was wild birds? There are migratory birds in most nations; with birds moving at all times of the year. Therefore people who want to believe that spread into Africa (or elsewhere) of H5N1 was by wild birds will easily find something to convince themselves – whatever evidence is provided to the contrary or not.

It therefore seems more than a little time-wasting to repeatedly provide detailed information each time to such persons and then to have such advice pretty much ignored, the original story written, original line taken, even sometimes with the comment that bird conservationists are too defensive to see the truth. This is a large part of what has been so disappointing and frustrating about this whole saga.

Please, show me the asymptomatic Garganey with HPAI H5N1 in Nigeria; show me other infected Garganey elsewhere; show me Garganey having contact with chickens, and then I promise I will invest the time looking for data on Garganey movements for you. Otherwise, best to look at poultry and caged bird trade first –
General note on trade:
Google search using words Nigeria poultry Import
which talks of illegal imports.

China and Nigeria have many trade links and recently boosted trade initiatives. Nigeria has trade with many other nations etc etc. Eliminate those, then lets talk about the hypothetical role of wild birds in spread to Africa.