The Antwerp Zoo and the Planckendael Zoo in Mechelen, Belgium, plan to vaccinate birds against the bird flu virus. Starting Monday, 20 February, the zoos began to vaccinate the most vulnerable birds, including storks, ostriches and waterfowl. The zoos were authorized to take this action by the government, according to a statement made on Sunday from the Antwerp Zoo.
At Planckendael, zoo officials admitted they were not completely sure if the vaccine will work to protect the birds. Even if it does work, it will only protect them against one type of bird flu.
The Belgian government has ordered all domestic birds which have not been vaccinated to be kept indoors. The Planckendael zoo chose to vaccinate the birds for their own well-being. According to a vet at the zoo, the exotic bird population there has already been indoors as a precaution since October. The emus in particular have had a rough time and have lost their appetite for food. The flamingoes, on the other hand, are normally kept inside during the winter, so the measures pose little threat to their well-being.
The birds at the Planckendael zoo will be vaccinated in two steps. The first shots are given this week; a second round will be given in six weeks. This is to insure that the birds produce enough antibodies to be resistant to the virus. However, it is not known if the vaccine will work with the “exotic” birds. The vaccine was made for poultry birds like chickens and ducks. There is no separate vaccine available for birds such as emus and flamingoes. A zoo official said that the birds would have to be vaccinated again in six months to continue their protection.
The vaccination process is stressful for the birds. Dutch zoos have already vaccinated some of their birds last year, and they noticed that some birds experienced swelling in the area of the shot. Because of the stress involved in giving the shot, the vets will conduct other studies on the birds while they are restrained.
In the Netherlands, the Rotterdam Zoo Blijdorp already vaccinated their bird population on December 13. The zoo in Amersfoort has also given the shots to their birds.
Antwerpse Zoo vaccineert vogels
Exotische vogels Planckendael krijgen spuitje tegen vogelgriep