The National Zoological Park (Delhi zoo) was shut down indefinitely Tuesday following confirmation that the death of at least eight water birds recently was due to bird flu, said sources. The death of a few ducks had been noticed about “four to five days” ago and a few pelicans were also found dead later, the sources added, terming the shutdown a “precautionary measure”.
Development and General Administration Minister Gopal Rai said, “Officials in charge of the zoo informed us about the flu infecting birds. The flu has been diagnosed as H5 avian influenza. The zoo has been closed for now and we are taking all necessary measures.”
He added, “We do not know how many birds have been infected but tests are being conducted.” Rai said the government would issue additional information after getting more test results. He did not say how long the zoo would remain shut.
Sources told The Indian Express that samples of the ducks that died were sent to Jalandhar this week for ascertaining the cause of death and it was found that they succumbed to bird flu. “The samples of dead pelicans too were sent for testing and the results are awaited,” said a source.
The samples were also sent to another laboratory for a second opinion, said sources. A central team will be visiting the zoo Wednesday, the sources added. The curator and spokesperson of the zoo could not be reached for comment.
Ducks and pelicans are kept in separate ponds at the zoological park. Before the bird deaths were spotted, the zoo had nearly 40 pelicans and 20 ducks.
The Indian Express could not officially confirm the number of deaths of ducks and pelicans, but sources confirmed that at least 8 water birds had died due to bird flu. The sources also said this was the first time in at least 10 years that bird flu was reported at the zoo. Avian influenza, commonly called bird flu, is an infectious viral disease of birds. According to the World Health Organisation, most avian influenza viruses do not infect humans.
The zoo came under the spotlight in May after the death of 46 spotted deer due to rabies. The deer deaths have been reported since January this year. The zoo got 22 lakh visitors last year.