Detroit Zoo Moves Birds Inside Over Avian Flu Outbreak In Michigan

The Detroit Zoo will be moving most of its birds inside, away from public view, in response to a highly contagious and deadly strain of avian flu identified in Michigan this week.

“This is an important preventative measure,” Dr. Ann Duncan, the zoo’s director of animal health, said in a statement. “By bringing these animals indoors, we can more closely monitor them and prevent contact with wild birds who may be carriers of [highly pathogenic avian influenza].”

The birds being sequestered include flamingos, the more than 20 species living inside the zoo’s “free-flight” aviary, and the peacocks that normally roam the grounds freely. For now, those animals will be housed inside the areas they typically go into to stay warm, Duncan told The Detroit Free Press.

Peacocks normally get the run of the grounds at the Detroit Zoo.

Raymond Boyd via Getty Images

One kind of bird that visitors will still be able to see are the penguins, since their living area has its own “air handling system,” the zoo noted.

Highly pathogenic avian flu has now been identified in seven states over the past month, including on commercial poultry farms, in backyard flocks of chickens and in wild ducks. Turkey farmers have reported birds dying within hours of apparently becoming infected, according to The New York Times.

The United States Department of Agriculture announced on Thursday it had been found in non-commercial and non-poultry flocks of backyard birds Kalamazoo County, Michigan. Those birds were killed “to prevent the spread of disease,” the USDA said.

Scientists believe that wild birds may be spreading the illness as they migrate across the country. At the same time, large industrial farms, where thousands of animals are packed into contained spaces, provide the perfect conditions for viruses to run rampant.

This strain of bird flu has not jumped to humans and is not considered a risk to human health, though scientists fear the possibility of it mutating.

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