Amid bird flu scare, alert sounded in J&K

As Himachal Pradesh reported cases of bird flu, Jammu and Kashmir has sounded an alert and started collecting samples to check the health of the winged guests flocking J&K during winters, officials said.

The joint teams of Animal Husbandry and Wildlife departments on Tuesday visited Gharana wetland in the outskirts of Jammu and collected 25 bird droppings for testing to ascertain whether any of the birds were infected with the dreaded avian influenza, the officials said.

“The J&K government has sounded an alert following reports of bird flu cases in Himachal Pradesh and issued certain guidelines as a precautionary measure,” Wildlife Warden, Jammu, Anil Atri said.

Atri, who along with Dr Ranjit Katoch of the Wildlife department joined the Animal Husbandry team at Gharana wetland, said all the birds present in the wetland looked healthy.

Gharana Wetland Conservation Reserve in R S Pura sector near the International Border was notified in 1981 and is home to more than 170 species of birds like bar-headed geese, gadwalls, common teals, purple swamp hens, Indian moor hens, black-winged stilts, cormorants, egrets and green shanks.

During the winter, the wetland is visited by thousands of birds from Central Asia and some of the migratory bird species visiting this wetland are endangered.

“The team of Animal Husbandry Department, Jammu collected the bird dropping samples for testing,” he said. “There is no need for alarm as this is being done just as a precautionary measure in view of reported cases in HP, Rajasthan, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh to keep the wetlands safe and check the spread of the H5N8 virus.”