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Lehigh Valley Zoo Moves Most Birds Off-Exhibit To Protect Against HPAI | WDIY Local News

Animal keeper Natalie Hildebrand feeds fish to the Lehigh Valley Zoo's African penguins in February 2020.
Sarit Laschinsky
Animal keeper Natalie Hildebrand feeds fish to the Lehigh Valley Zoo's African penguins in February 2020.

Amid the spread of a highly-contagious bird flu, the Lehigh Valley Zoo is taking additional precautions to keep its avian exhibits safe. WDIY’s Sarit Laschinsky has more.

The zoo said that its veterinary and leadership teams have decided to move the majority of its birds on-exhibit to indoor spaces, to eliminate contact with wild birds on its grounds.

In a release, the zoo said two cases of the highly pathogenic avian influenza have recently been found in Lehigh County, less than 10 miles away.

The zoo said in addition to its African penguins and lorikeets, which were kept off-exhibit for a three-month period earlier this year due to the disease, its ravens and all the animals in the Birds of Prey area have also been moved indoors for their protection.

The zoo’s barnyard birds and waterfowl will continue to remain off-exhibit, while large birds such as the emu and ostrich will remain in their exhibits due to indoor space limitations.

The zoo said it is also taking additional precautions such as continuing higher levels of biosecurity for birds, providing staff with personal protective equipment, restricting access to bird areas, and modifying existing habitats.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service confirmed the presence of HPAI along the North American Atlantic flyway in February.

Since then, the disease has been confirmed in 47 of 50 states, in both commercial flocks and wild birds. It is highly contagious among birds, causing extreme illness and possibly death.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the recent HPAI detections in birds do not pose an immediate public health concern, and no human cases have been detected in the country.

The zoo says there is no timeline as to how long the virus can affect birds in the U.S., saying that while cases decreased in early summer, they have increased again in the past two months with the increase of winter bird migrations.

(Original air-date: 11/11/22)

Sarit "Siri" Laschinsky was WDIY's News and Public Affairs Director until 2023.
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