Suspected outbreak of fatal bird flu in the Gambia: Environmentalists raise a concern

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Environmentalists have raised concern over a suspected outbreak of Avian Influenza disease that has already claimed the lives of more than eighty birds in the country — demanding answers from the Department of Parks and Wildlife to make its reports and findings available to the public.

Their reaction was triggered by a trending social media post authored by a renowned environmental research center dubbed ‘Kartong Birds Observatory (KBO) that reported the Outbreak of the disease in the country, disclosing that at least sixty-six (66) Terns and Gulls have been discovered dead along the Tanji Bird Reserve area.

The local organization also reported that a further twenty-six (26) birds were dying in the area, adding that six (6) more birds were found dead along the beach in Kartong.

“Yesterday, KBO researcher Kebba Sosseh surveyed a serious outbreak of Avian Influenza at Tanji Bird Reserve. So far, it has killed at least 66 terns and gulls. A further 26 birds were found dying. At Kartong, six birds were found dying on the beach today,” Kartong Birds Observatory (KBO) reported on its Facebook.

In his reaction, Muhammed Hydara, Secretary General of Gambia Environmental Alliance (GEA), observed that recent reports of numerous dead birds found along the country’s shoreline are profoundly concerning and demand immediate attention.

“The public deserves to be informed of the Department of Parks and Wildlife Management investigation findings, and we hope that they will provide clear and transparent information regarding the cause of death of these birds,” Hydara said.

“We cannot afford to overlook this issue, as it may have far-reaching ecological consequences, and we must take all necessary measures to prevent further harm to our environment and its inhabitants,” he urged.

However, an expert who prefers anonymity observed that it is apparent that there is a disease outbreak claiming the lives of birds in the country, arguing that its premature to come to conclusions about Avian Influenza disease in the country as there has not been any scientific proof to confirm such an outbreak.

He added: “Avian Influenza is a Zoonotic disease and one of those priority diseases for the veterinary and wildlife sector. The disease can devastate the poultry sector with the potential for public health disasters. Avian Influenza is never taken lightly anywhere in the world as in the case of Senegal, which banned the importation of poultry, live birds, and chicks for almost one year after its detection.”

He said the ban aligned with international regulations that ceased to contain and eliminate such outbreaks worldwide. He also disclosed that the Gambia is equipped with its contingent plans, the Integrated National Action Plan for Avian and Human Influenza (INAP), for dealing with such emergencies.

He called on relevant authorities to invoke and process the Integrated National Action Plan for Avian and Human Influenza (INAP) that will be responsible for collecting samples in the affected areas and conducting laboratory tests to the effect, adding that if laboratory results confirmed the outbreak Government should immediately shield off the affected areas and ban the trafficking of poultry and birds for both incoming and outgoing processes.

This medium made frantic efforts to speak to Government officials at the Department of Livestock Services and the Department of Wildlife and Parks to shed light on the matter, but I have yet to hear back.

However, this medium’s unofficial information confirms that Department of Wildlife and Parks officials have visited the affected areas and since collected samples for laboratory analyses.

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