Contractors hired to dispose of dead seabirds after 500 people die in suspected bird flu outbreak


The suspected outbreak of bird flu in seabird populations in East Lothian has resulted in contractors being hired by East Lothian Council to dispose of the carcasses.

About 500 dead seabirds (mostly gannets) have washed up on county beaches in recent days, with large numbers spotted by members of the public in Yellowcraig and on beaches in North Berwick.

READ MORE: Bird flu: call for coordinated efforts as Bass Rock sees rise in gannet deaths

Bass Rock near North Berwick is home to the largest colony of gannets in the world, with many animals having been bred to be tested to confirm whether an outbreak of bird flu has occurred.

East Lothian Council has now hired a specialist contractor based in central Scotland to dispose of the bodies – but warned the public could still encounter the animals.

A dead gannet near North Berwick – Gordon Bell

Signs have also been erected to warn the public of potential hazards on county beaches.

East Lothian Courier:

READ MORE: Public warned of dead seabirds as bird flu fears grow

A council spokesman said: ‘East Lothian Council has appointed a specialist contractor to dispose of the dead seabirds raised.

“Tidal movements will inevitably mean that some may run aground late evening until early morning, but will be recovered in due course.

“The advice remains for visitors not to touch or lift the birds themselves and to keep dogs on a leash to avoid possible cross-contamination from disease-spreading animals.”

East Lothian Courier:

A dead gannet outside the Scottish Seabird Center in North Berwick

Susan Davies, CEO of the Scottish Seabird Centre, was grateful for the council’s quick response to breed the birds.

She said: ‘We are still seeing far greater numbers of gannets dying on Bass Rock than usual which is extremely worrying.

“Confirmatory test results on the birds at Bass Rock have not yet been received.

“We are working with NatureScot to ensure the impact on Bass Rock is properly assessed.

“We are grateful to East Lothian Council for quickly activating a coordinated response to clear dead gannets and small numbers of other birds from East Lothian’s most popular beaches.

“It’s really important that people continue to avoid touching dead or sick birds, although the risk to public health is considered low.”

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has also warned against approaching dead birds, with large numbers of the same species in the same location being a potential indication of bird flu.

A SEPA spokesperson said: “If you find a dead bird of prey, three or more gulls or wild birds (especially wild geese, wild ducks, swans) or find five or more birds of any other species in the same place at the same time, please do not touch or lift the birds.


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