Fakenham nature reserves in the face of UK bird flu outbreak

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Published:
07:30 8 October 2022



As tighter restrictions are applied to poultry farmers in Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex in a bid to stop a worrying rise in bird flu cases, we spoke to Fakenham Nature Reserves about the how it affects them…

This year the UK has experienced the worst bird flu outbreak in its history, with more than 150 confirmed cases, raising serious concerns for the region’s poultry industry, as well as its bird colonies. wild.

The Regional Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) requires all bird keepers in Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex to follow strict biosecurity rules, including disinfection of clothing, footwear, equipment and vehicles before and after any contact with captive birds.


Summer sun rising over Sculthorpe Moor nature reserve. Photos: Andy Thompson.
– Credit: Archant

Fakenham’s two reserves, the Hawk and Owl Trust at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve and Pensthorpe – are both home to a wide variety of birdlife.

Earlier this year, Pensthorpe was forced to close to visitors for a few days after a case of bird flu was confirmed in February.

A spokesperson for the nature reserve said they were devastated to lose a number of birds to bird flu, and said that as a reserve open to the public they have to balance the enjoyment of its visitors with the protection of its birds.


A flamingo in the habitat of the Pensthorpe Nature Park Wetlands Discovery Area.  PHOTO: Steve Adams

Pensthorpe Nature Park’s flamingos were moved to a ‘temporary safe environment’ after an outbreak of bird flu at the reserve in February
– Credit: Steve Adams

“We work closely with our veterinary consultants on a set of agreed procedures that we have established to reduce the risk of bird flu to our captive birds, our experienced keepers also actively monitor sick wild birds and any wild bird deaths. “

At Sculthorpe, the worry is there, according to reserve manager Nigel Middleton, but he says there is not much they can do.

“While we are obviously concerned, there is little that can be done to actively protect the birds in the reserve,” Mr Middleton said.


Nigel Middleton at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve.  Photo: Ian Burt

Nigel Middleton at Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve. Photo: Ian Burt
– Credit: IAN BURT

“They are not locked in cages, but free to come and go as they please.

“Birds of prey live solitary lives, so they are less likely to become infected with bird flu. Unlike shorebirds and wading birds, they do not congregate in large numbers, which causes the disease to spread. within a herd.

“The greatest risk to birds of prey occurs if they pick up infected carrion.”

Poultry farmers and members of the public should report dead wild birds to the Defra helpline on 03459 33 55 77 and farmers should report suspected illness to APHA on 03000 200 301.

For full details of AIPZ requirements and limitations, see www.gov.uk/guidance/avian-influenza-bird-flu

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