Israel: Bird flu kills cranes, forces chicken cull
A bird flu outbreak in northern Israel that killed over 5,200 cranes and forced the culling of half a million chickens is not yet under control, an expert said on Monday.
The disaster is expected to threaten Israel's supply of eggs. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government is trying to import them from other countries.
What did the authorities say?
Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg called the crisis "the most serious damage to wildlife in the history of the country."
"The extent of the damage is still unclear," she wrote on Twitter.
הפגיעה החמורה ביותר בחיות בר בתולדות המדינה. 5000 עגורים מתים משפעת העופות באגמון החולה, ועוד לא ברור היקף הנזק. ביקרתי שם היום עם נציגי רשות הטבע והגנים וקרן קיימת לישראל pic.twitter.com/i0Qb4CzQAJ— תמר זנדברג 🟣 (@tamarzandberg) December 26, 2021
As Israeli media carried photos of workers in white hazmat suits collecting the crane carcasses, Uri Naveh, a senior scientist from Israel's Parks and Nature Authority, said his staff was still struggling to control the situation.
"Many of the birds are dead in the middle of the water body so it's difficult for them to be taken out." he said Monday.
The dead cranes were first detected 10 days ago at Hula Lake park.
They were part of a group of 30,000 that did not migrate to Africa for the winter, along with most of the flock of about 500,000.
Hula Lake park spokesman Yaron Michaeli said the cranes were infected by smaller birds that had contact with the chickens.
But Michaeli said that the death toll among cranes was slowly stabilizing. "This is a good sign," he said. "They might be starting to get over this."
Egg shortage expected
Israeli authorities announced plans to cull chicken to prevent the spread of bird flu to people. No human cases have been reported so far in the area.
After 244,000 hens were culled a week ago, an Israeli Agriculture Ministry spokesperson, Dafna Yurista, said on Sunday that 320,000 more laying hens would be destroyed at a farm near Margaliot on the border with Lebanon.
"The Ministry of Agriculture is concerned that people could be infected from infected battery hens near homes," the ministry said in a statement.
The outbreak could lead to a shortage of 14 million eggs from supermarket shelves.
Authorities are working on diffusing the situation by buying eggs from surrounding countries.