New England zoos prepare for potential bird flu infections

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Since February, the Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) appeared in both wild birds and captive flocks along the East Coast. This deadly disease in birds has been closely monitored by many state and federal agencies. Now local zoos are making adjustments to protect the animals in their care.

Last season’s bird flu has caused many local birdwatchers to take down garden feeders, but this season the IAHP is changing the animals you can expect to see at your favorite local zoo.

Both Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford and Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence recently decided it was time to remove their most at-risk animals from the show to protect them for the rest of the migration season.

Corrie Ignagni, digital communications manager at Roger Williams in Providence, informed us that no public statement has yet been made, “but our animal care team has taken careful steps to ensure that all of our animals remain healthy and our top priority.”

She also shared with us a statement from the zoo’s chief veterinarian, Dr. Kim Wojick:

As you may have seen in the news, highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been found in many wild birds and captive flocks along the east coast. It is a disease that we follow closely and we have set up an intervention plan. Currently, infected birds have not been identified in Rhode Island, but the virus can likely circulate among wild birds here. There have been infected wild birds in all of our neighboring states and infections in backyard poultry flocks in New York and Maine.

Due to the proximity of the virus and the risks to our collector animals, we are implementing portions of our HPAI response plan in conjunction with recommendations from our state veterinarian. This includes: moving our most sensitive bird species (chickens, turkeys, peacocks and raptor species) out of display to indoor or fully mesh enclosures; strengthening health measures and protocols; the continued use of masks worn around all animal species; report any wild or collector birds showing signs of illness directly to veterinary staff.

The status of this disease in our area is constantly changing, so recommendations may change depending on where the disease is detected and recommendations from state and federal authorities. We expect cases to decrease significantly after the end of spring migration.”

Buttonwood took Facebook this week to issue a similar statement to guests who might be wondering where some of their favorite animals were or why the duck feeders weren’t there anymore.

Last week, Franklin Park Zoo in Boston and Stone Zoo in Stoneham made the same tough decisions with their bird exhibits, while Southwick Zoo in Mendon remains closed until early April.

20 things to see at Roger Williams Park (other than the zoo)

There are over 427 acres of beautiful landscaping, historic buildings and family spaces at Roger Williams Park in Providence. Gifted to the city in 1872 by Roger Williams’ last descendant, Betsey Williams, the park has become known primarily for its incredible zoo. But throughout this historic district, listed on the US National Register of Historic Places, there are plenty of other amazing things to see.

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