January 10, 2008

Biologists Monitor Emerging Waterfowl, Raptor Disease
Lakefront Hartwell - www.lakefronthartwell.com
10 Jan 2008
Area: United States

Wildlife biologists and park rangers are continuing to monitor area reservoirs and lakes for signs of avian vacuolar myelinopathy (AVM), a disease that primarily affects waterfowl and raptors. Biologists are concerned with the emergence of AVM in S.C., but note an 8.5% increase in eagle nesting per year since surveys were first initiated 30 years ago. S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have been collaborating to monitor reservoirs that may support potentially toxic blue green algae, the suspect agent of AVM, which has been implicated as a cause in American coot and eagle mortalities.

AVM is an often-fatal disorder that affects the central nervous system of waterfowl and raptors that consume the suspect toxic algae growing on submerged aquatic vegetation in some Southeastern reservoirs. Research supports the working hypothesis that waterfowl such as American coots feeding on freshwater aquatic plants are susceptible to toxins found in algae growing on the leaves and stems. Once ingested, toxins cause cell and tissue damage primarily to the central nervous system and affected birds become uncoordinated and lose the ability to fly. This makes them vulnerable to raptors, such as eagles, that easily target affected birds.

PetSmart halts bird sales after outbreak
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - www.post-gazette.com
05 Jan 2008
LW Fuoco
Area: United States

PetSmart has suspended bird sales in 775 stores in 44 states, including nine stores in the Pittsburgh area, because a number of cockatiels have tested positive for psittacosis, also known as parrot fever. Psittacosis is an infection caused by bacteria. Birds can transmit the disease to other birds and to people. There were no confirmed cases of psittacosis locally in 2007, according to a spokesman for the Allegheny County Health Department.

But Dave Zazac yesterday said he could find no indication that PetSmart, headquartered in Phoenix, had notified health officials about company concerns. Sales were suspended Dec. 19 when birds in PetSmart stores, including those in Allegheny County, were put into quarantine in the stores. They are being treated with antibiotics, said a spokesman at the company's 24-hour media hot line. "We suspended sales as a precaution," the PetSmart spokesman said. "Employees wear gloves and gowns" when they feed and care for the birds, and there have been no reports of employees or customers contracting psittacosis.

Frog population declining fast
San Gabriel Valley Tribune - www.sgvtribune.com
09 Jan 2008
E Kleeman
Area: California United States

High in the San Gabriel Mountains above Azusa, a tiny population of mountain yellow-legged frogs cling to existence. Less than 3.5 inches long with speckled olive brown backs and buttercup yellow undersides, they are one of about eight small groups of the frogs scattered in isolated mountain streams throughout Southern California. Biologists estimate fewer than 100 of these endangered amphibians exist in the wild. "In the case of a population of animals like the frog, the interest is in protecting the individual animals one by one.

If even one is threatened, that's a problem," said John Capell, district ranger for the Santa Clara/Mojave Rivers District of the Angeles National Forest. But for this group of frogs, protecting them is easier said than done. Their home stream is crossed by the Pacific Crest hiking trail and abuts Williamson Rock - a once wildly popular rock-climbing destination. For now, though, Williamson Rock stands quiet, and that stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail is empty.

Toxins and Disease Kill Millions of Seabirds
Current Results - www.currentresults.com
10 Jan 2008
L Osborn
Area: United States

Biotoxin poisoning is the leading cause of mortality among seabirds in the United States, killing tens of thousands every year. An assessment of 630,000 dead birds finds that over half succumbed after acquiring botulism from ingesting lethal Clostridium botulinum bacteria. The toxin mainly affected birds that live near coastlines or that frequent both marine and freshwater habitat. Diseases, both viral and bacterial, are the second most prevalent cause of death, accounting for 20% of the mortality among birds that died between 1971 and 2005.

Infected birds were most often diagnosed with avian cholera, paramyxovirus, West Nile virus and salmonellosis. Both biotoxin poisoning and infectious diseases became more prevalent among seabirds over the 34-year period. According to the authors of this study, their results indicate that botulinum toxin and infectious diseases in three decades have killed over five million aquatic birds in the US. In contrast, all but a few birds inhabiting the open ocean stay free of biotoxin and disease. Instead, three-quarters of their deaths are attributed to starvation.

Mystery epidemic puts gharial on the brink
CNN-IBN - www.ibnlive.com
10 Jan 2008
B Dutt
Area: India

The banks of the river Chambal resemble a mortuary. Already on the critically endangered list, the Indian gharial is fighting a mystery disease. Over 100 gharials have died in the last six weeks. Well-known wildlife film-maker Naresh Bedi, among the first to reach the spot, was shocked at what he saw. “Their reflexes were not working. They were trying to keep their head up above the water. Their eyes were closed. So, I don't know what they were suffering from,” he said. Post-mortem results show presence of lead in the dead bodies.

But if the gharials died from lead poisoning why did it not affect other wildlife in the Chambal like the crocodile or migratory birds? The Chambal, in fact, has the largest breeding population of the gharials. “Anything that affects the gharial even in a small way, in this case, it's not small because over 50 animals have died and they are all either sub-adults or adults. It is very serious,” says reptile expert Romulus Whitaker. A CNN-IBN Investigation a year ago showed how the Chambal habitat was being destroyed by sand-mining.

Bird flu discovered in mute swans
BBC News - news.bbc.co.uk
10 Jan 2008
Area: England United Kingdom

Three mute swans in Dorset have been found dead with the virulent H5N1 strain of bird flu. Efforts have begun to test other birds at Abbotsbury Swannery, a sanctuary located nine miles from Weymouth. Acting Chief Veterinary Officer Fred Landeg said: "Our message to all bird keepers, particularly those in the area, is that they must be vigilant." BBC environment correspondent Sarah Mukherjee said officials would now try to establish how the virus spread.

The swans' carcasses were found following routine surveillance, a statement from Defra said. A Defra spokeswoman said government vets had been testing them for avian flu for the last two days. The statement added that a Wild Bird Control Area and Monitoring Area has been set up around the Swannery, covering Chesil Beach and Portland Bill. Bird owners must isolate their flocks from wild birds within the zone.

Photo courtesy of N Borrow/999Today


Health assessment of Black-crowned Night-herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) of the New York Harbor estuary [online abstract only]
Comp Biochem Physiol B Biochem Mol Biol. 2007 Dec;148(4):363-74. Epub 2007 Jul 14.
SH Newman and et al.

Age at infection affects the pathogenicity of Asian highly pathogenic avian influenza H5NI viruses in ducks [online abstract only]
Virus Research. 2007 Dec; 130 (1-2): 151-161
MJ Pantin-Jackwood et al.

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