Bird flu detected in penguin colony in South Africa

Two African penguins on a stone, Bird flu detected in penguin colony in South Africa
African penguins, photo: Canva

A penguin colony in South Africa’s Boulders beach has been hit by bird flu. Environmental authorities confirmed four infections and seven suspected cases of avian influenza.

Officials said the strain of bird flu was comparable to that detected in a range of wild seabirds, including common terns and Cape cormorants.

In 2018, a similar outbreak killed hundreds of endangered penguins and other birds.

“Closing the Boulders colony to visitors is not justified at this stage, but visitors must stay on designated boardwalks,” said a joint statement by South African National Parks, the Western Cape veterinary services and the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB).

The number of African penguins has been falling sharply over the years due to a loss of habitat and declining fish stocks. Authorities said that there are an estimated 3,000 penguins at Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town, close to Cape Town.

On Friday, the national Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment announced that regions near penguin colonies would be temporarily closed to commercial fishing for sardines and anchovy to support decreasing penguin populations.

“The sardine stock in South African waters continues to be at historically low levels. Competition for food is thought to be one among a set of pressures that are contributing to the decline of the African penguin population,” the department said.

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