Fish & Game keeps close eye on disease outbreak

Thursday 16 February 2012, 1:32PM

By Fish and Game NZ



Auckland Waikato Fish & Game is asking landowners and hunters to monitor waterfowl populations on their properties and ponds for any signs of sick or dead birds.

The call comes following Fish & Game being notified of an outbreak of avian botulism on an oxidation pond at Matamata which has killed an estimated 900 ducks.

Southern game bird manager David Klee says landowners and hunters in the area should check their ponds to ensure sick waterfowl have not dispersed from the site of the outbreak.

Symptoms include varying degrees of paralysis, sagging heads, drooping wings and flightlessness.

If landowners or hunters observe such signs they are asked to contact Auckland Waikato Fish & Game immediately (David Klee 021300183) for advice on how to deal with the situation.

“Unfortunately the authorities took six weeks to notify Fish & Game of this outbreak which is disappointing because by the time we were informed a large number of birds had already succumbed,” says Mr Klee.

“It is possible to manage outbreaks of avian botulism – removing dead birds and disposing of them in an appropriate manner is crucial – that’s why we’re asking hunters and landowners to be vigilant.”

Mr Klee says Fish & Game is actively working with local and territorial authorities by providing them with the relevant information on how to manage botulism and mitigate its impact.

Fish & Game wishes to thank local hunting club members (??) and Fish & Game councillors for assisting in the bird dispersal activity around the Matamata wastewater treatment plant where the outbreak occurred.

Key facts:

What is avian botulism?

It is a serious neuromuscular illness caused by a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Spores can lie dormant for many years in soil and other substrates until favourable environmental conditions leads to an outbreak. It has the potential to kill large numbers of waterfowl.

Is an outbreak common?

Avian botulism outbreaks often occur at wastewater treatment plant sites as these areas provide the perfect conditions for the bacterium which produces the toxin. Outbreaks typically coincide with periods of hot, dry and calm weather from December to March but can occur outside this period.

Is it a threat to human?

Avian botulism is different to the strain of botulism that affects humans.