Park ranger transports six pelicans from lake after bird flu outbreak

Going to need a bigger car! St James’s Park ranger forces PELICAN into boot as six huge birds are transported from lake to enclosure after avian flu outbreak

  • Pelicans in St James’ Park, London, have been removed to stop spread of bird flu
  • Emergency measures introduced by Government as 32 cases are recorded in UK
  • Members of the public are urged to avoid feeding or touching any wild birds
  • Animal and Plant Health Agency says the risk to humans and food supply is low 

Six pelicans that call St James’s Park their home are being moved to an enclosure after the outbreak of bird flu in the UK.

A ranger was today spotted loading one of the huge birds into the boot of a car next to the lake in the central London park.

The Royal Parks said in a statement that they had been advised by the government to move the pelicans as a ‘precaution’ due the outbreak, with 32 confirmed cases of bird flu now recorded in Britain.

The birds, called Isla, Tiffany, Gargi, Sun, Moon and Star and which are a popular feature among visitors, are being moved to an enclosure on the nearby Duck Island nature reserve.

The statement added: ‘We want to reassure the public that all six pelicans are healthy, and we hope that they will be back out and about preening themselves by the lake, soon.

‘During the avian influenza outbreak we have been carrying out enhanced monitoring of our water bodies across all parks to check for signs of illness and to ensure that any carcasses are removed immediately.

Pictured: A Bird Keeper from the Royal Parks removes a Pelican at dawn in St James Park, London, and takes it to an enclosure to safety to protect it from the bird flu outbreak in the UK

During the national outbreak of avian influenza, Royal Parks have been advised by the Animal and Plant Health Agency to move the pelicans to the enclosure on Duck Island as a precaution

First introduced to St James’ Park in 1664 as a gift from the Russian Ambassador, more than 40 pelicans have since made the Royal park their home.

The park’s current residents – Isla, Tiffany, Gargi, Sun, Moon and Star – have been moved to an enclosure in response to measures brought in to control a bird flu outbreak.

But the birds can normally be seen during feeding time and are usually free to roam, often staying near the lake.

According to Royal Parks, the pelicans are outgoing, sociable creatures and will often sit on park benches next to visitors.

The charity says one mischievous pelican used to fly over to London Zoo in The Regent’s Park to steal fish for lunch.

In 2015 Royal London became the park’s official pelican partner, helping to keep the pelicans healthy and well fed.

‘To date, we have not been alerted to any nearby outbreaks of the disease, and we’ve not observed avian influenza in the birds that frequent the water bodies’.

There are currently 32 recorded cases of avian flu in the UK which prompted the Government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency to issue strict rules to bird owners to prevent further spread of the disease.

The majority of the cases have been recorded in England with a large number in North Yorkshire, while other hotspots have been identified in the Midlands and north west areas of the country.

Three cases have been recorded in Wales – in Wrexham, Gaerwen on Anglesey and Crickhowell in Powys.

The new housing measures, which came into force last week, mean it is now a legal requirement for all bird keepers across the UK to keep their birds indoors.

They must also follow strict biosecurity measures in order to limit the spread of and eradicate the disease. 

Avian flu, more commonly known as bird flu, is not an airborne virus but spreads bird-to-bird through direct contact or through contaminated body fluids and faeces according to Defra.

The virus can also be spread by contaminated feed and water or by dirty vehicles, clothing and footwear. 

Cases can spike during winter months if birds migrating from mainland Europe to the UK are carrying the disease.

There are two strains of the virus with one being more severe. Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is the more serious type and is often fatal in birds.

First introduced to St James’ Park in 1664 as a gift from the Russian Ambassador, more than 40 pelicans have since made the park home. There are currently six pelicans living in the park

A map from the Animal and Plant Health Agency showing the active cases of bird flu across the UK and their surrounding restriction zones brought in to prevent the spread of the disease

Symptoms of HPAI avian flu include swollen head, closed and excessively watery eyes, head and body tremouring, drooping of the wings and/or dragging of legs and twisting of the head and neck. 

The risk to human health from avian influenza remains very low, according to public health advice, and there is a low food safety risk.

Members of the public should not touch or pick up any dead or sick birds – such as swans, geese, ducks, gulls or birds of prey – and instead should report them to the Defra helpline.

The measures come after a bird rescue volunteer in Stratford-upon-Avon warned last month that the current outbreak was ‘beyond control’.

Tens of thousands of tourists visit the Warwickshire town and birthplace of playwright William Shakespeare each year to marvel at the scores of swans living on the River Avon.  

But in recent weeks, several of the swans – as well as ducks and geese – have been struck down with avian flu leaving wildlife experts fearing Stratford-upon-Avon’s swan population could be wiped out.

Cyril Bennis, who runs Stratford-Upon-Avon Swan Rescue group, said he had more than a dozen dead birds at the sanctuary in early November after one of the first of the latest outbreaks was recorded in Worcestershire.


In November, Cyril Bennis from Stratford-upon-Avon Swan Rescue Group (pictured) said the community was concerned about the outbreak which has led to the death of several swans

Defra said the new housing measures will be kept under regular review.

UK Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said: ‘We have taken swift action to limit the spread of the disease but we are continuing to see a growing number of bird flu cases on farms and in backyard flocks across the country.

‘Whether you keep just a few birds or thousands you must take action now to protect your birds from this highly infectious disease.

‘It is now a legal requirement to keep your birds indoors to keep them separate from wild birds which spread the disease.

‘It is also vital that you maintain strong biosecurity by regularly checking and maintaining sheds and cleaning and disinfecting footwear to limit the risk of the disease spreading. Don’t walk the virus into your hens.’

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