The SANCCOB Cape Town team have had to split and quarantine their facility in order to manage a small outbreak of Avian Influenza in their African Penguins – This is how to help them through this!
Cape Town, South Africa (28 November 2022) – SANCCOB (Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds) has been conducting pathology testing on the birds in its care and results have shown cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). This was not good news for the birds but the team is committed to tackling this issue to save the birds.
Initially, they had three African penguins that had developed symptoms, including cloudy eyes and seizures. Sadly, there is no cure for Avian Influenza so the birds were humanely euthanised.
“We have since identified more African penguins in our care that are symptomatic; these birds have been isolated and we are closely monitoring them for any new signs or other unusual clinical symptoms.”
With the risk of an outbreak, the Table View centre has been placed under quarantine and is unable to take in any new birds or release any birds that may be ready. A satellite facility has been set up off-site so that birds in need of help, can still get rehabilitative care.
“We wish to assure you that we are doing everything we can to minimise the spread of the virus within our facility, and this includes increased biosecurity and dedicated personnel per enclosure to prevent cross-contamination. Visitor access to SANCCOB Cape Town has been stopped with immediate effect, and is restricted to essential service providers, staff, and volunteers only.”
The team has to think long-term, to be able to irradicate the virus and get back to business as usual. They have set up a “next step” plan in the hopes of minimising the potential spread. They released an in-depth statement to share what the plans are going forward and how the public can assist and support them during this time.
“We have implemented a robust plan that aims to minimise the potential spread of the virus. At this moment, our off-site quarantine facility is operational in the event that we need to accept abandoned or sick seabirds rescued from the wild to maintain our essential service. Resources have therefore been split to ensure the highest level of care for seabirds at the quarantine site. All the birds cared for at SANCCOB will be observed for any new signs such as twitching, seizing or cloudy eyes.
At present, individual cases of wild African penguins needing medical or clinical attention will be assessed by the veterinary team in SANCCOB’s parking area and birds showing symptoms of Avian Influenza will be euthanised, while other birds not exhibiting symptoms will be transferred to the off-site quarantine facility. We will formally request permission from the Western Cape Veterinary Services for each individual, newly rescued seabird requiring urgent veterinary treatment such as surgery, to be admitted with the understanding that we cannot release the birds until the quarantine has been lifted.
As soon as we observe grouped penguins that have not shown any new signs of the infection for more than five days, we will liaise with the State Veterinary Department regarding the best process to demonstrate that the area is at low risk for Avian Influenza.”
“This is a devastating situation that the African penguin can ill afford. We are required to perform additional pathology testing which may cost up to ZAR 1,000 / USD 60 / EURO 58 per bird per test. This, coupled with the unexpected increase in food, medication, biosecurity, and capacity required to operate two facilities, will result in a strain on our finances. This is further exacerbated by the fact that we have been placed under quarantine and hence are closed to the public and unable to earn income. The quarantine is likely to be enforced throughout December.”
Should you wish to support the team through this incredibly trying time, please do so using the website here.