CorrectionSept. 19, 2019
An earlier version of this story misspelled Kristen Ruegg’s first name as Kristin.
An earlier version of this story misspelled Kristen Ruegg’s first name as Kristin.
More than 200 birds died following a botched attempt by a Malaysian bus driver to smuggle them into Singapore.
A Malaysia-registered bus driven by the 35-year-old male suspect was stopped for security checks at Singapore’s Woodlands Checkpoint from Johor Baru at about 7am on Saturday.
During checks, officers from the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) detected signs of modification around the rear tyres of the bus, said ICA in a joint statement with the National Parks Board (NParks).
“Their suspicions were further aroused when they heard chirping coming from within the bus.
“Upon scrutiny, the officers uncovered 15 containers of 815 birds inside modified compartments above the rear tyres of the bus, ” it said, adding it was the largest seizure of ornamental birds in Singapore in recent years.
Only around 600 of the birds survived. They are currently being cared for under quarantine at NParks’ facility.
The driver, who did not have valid health certificates and import permits, was referred to NParks for investigation.
The haul consisted of 38 white-rumped shamas (murai batu), 10 oriental magpie-robins, 141 oriental white-eyes and 626 munias (scaly-breasted munia and white-headed munia).
The white-rumped shama is a protected species in Malaysia under the Wildlife Conservation Act, while its conservation status in Singapore is classified as rare.
“The health status of animals smuggled into Singapore are unknown and may introduce exotic diseases, such as bird flu, into the country.
“The well-being of the animals will also be affected by poor conditions during the transportation process, ” said the statement.
“The illegal wildlife trade impacts the biodiversity and ecosystems of both source countries and the countries where the wildlife end up in.
“For example, the white-rumped shama, a popular songbird in South-East Asia, is becoming increasingly rare throughout the region because of its popularity in the pet trade.
“As such, NParks strictly regulates the import of animals to prevent the introduction of exotic diseases into Singapore, to safeguard the health and welfare of animals, and to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.”
(CNN)A Miller Park Zoo flamingo was euthanized Monday after an elementary school student threw a rock inside the animal’s exhibit.
One person was killed in a hunting accident off of Pine Road in Brentwood, New Hampshire Saturday evening.
The 51-year-old victim was a resident of Sandown, New Hampshire. His identity is being withheld by authorities pending notification of his family.
Brentwood police were alerted to an accidental shooting at a bird sanctuary just before 4 p.m. Officers assisted with CPR on the victim. Less than an hour later the victim was pronounced deceased at the scene, according to police.
The incident was ruled an accidental homicide.
ABC often receives questions regarding wind energy development and its impacts on birds and other wildlife. In this three-part series, Michael Hutchins, Director of ABC’s Bird-Smart Wind Energy Campaign, answers some of the more frequently asked questions about threats: How does wind energy threaten birds? What bird species are most threatened? How does the threat of wind energy compare to that of climate change?
See a full list of references at the end of the post and stay tuned for the second post in this series, scheduled for publication in mid-April.
Properly sited wind turbines are relatively bird friendly, especially when compared to fossil fuels. However, they are far from benign. Wind turbines and their associated infrastructure — notably power lines and towers — are among the fastest-growing threats to birds and bats in the United States and Canada. At the end of 2016, there were more than 52,000 operating, commercial-scale wind turbines in the United States and many more are currently under construction3.
We estimate that hundreds of thousands of birds and bats die every year when they accidentally collide with turbine blades9, 17, 25, 26. Fragile-bodied bats can even succumb to the pressures created when the giant turbine blades pass through the air, a phenomenon known as barotrauma10.
Associated power lines and towers, which carry the electrical power generated by wind turbines into the grid19, kill an additional 8 to 57 million birds every year through collisions and electrocutions18. Furthermore, wind energy development can also contribute to habitat loss and road and other infrastructure construction, all of which can have significant impacts on birds7, 27.
When it comes to wind energy, siting is everything. The risks are, of course, much greater when wind turbines are placed in areas attracting large concentrations of birds and bats12. When wind energy projects are located in or near major migratory routes, stopover sites, or key breeding or foraging areas, the losses are expected to be great. ABC believes that such high-risk areas should be avoided at all costs. However, state and federal regulatory agencies have not done a very good job of keeping wind projects away from these high-concentration bird areas4.
Unfortunately, the answer is no. All we have at present are very rough and potentially biased estimates9, 17, 25, 26 that are based on an accumulation of studies from individual, unidentified wind energy facilities.
The reason? The wind industry treats these data as trade secrets and generally does not share them with the public or concerned conservation organizations. Some wind energy developers have even sued to hide these data from the public2, 14. Hawai’i is currently the only state that requires mortality data be collected by independent, third-party experts and makes the information available to the public on request13.
These estimates that are made public — all of which range in the hundreds of thousands of birds and bats killed annually — are based on non-standardized data that were collected and reported by paid consultants to the wind industry. This is a direct conflict of interest15 that may lead to a reporting bias in favor of the wind companies (meaning, the numbers of killed birds and bats may be under-reported).
There are also methodological challenges. Dead birds are difficult to find under wind turbines, and studies have shown that even trained observers can easily miss them. Additionally, predators are known to locate and remove carcasses, which can also lead to underestimates of the number of bird and bat carcasses documented15.
Deaths due to collisions or electrocutions at power lines and towers associated with wind energy development are even more difficult to estimate, as there are thousands of miles of power lines, some in remote locations, that are seldom or never monitored for bird deaths18.
Finally, many of these estimates are several years old and are likely now out of date. In the years since many of these data were collected, wind energy companies have built many more turbines, power lines, and other infrastructure. This suggests that the toll on birds and bats is now much greater.
The fact that the energy companies are allowed to self-report their own violations of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) is a violation of the first principle of scientific integrity — that is, those that have a vested interest in the outcome should not be the ones collecting and reporting their results to regulatory agencies1, 5.
Knowing the number and type of species affected by wind projects depends on the ability to detect birds at the site in question at some point during their life-cycle. This is a challenge for all of the reasons previously mentioned — reporting is voluntary, inconsistent, and out of date.
That said, we do know that many species of birds are impacted by wind turbines25 and that those species that are most susceptible to turbine collisions and/or displacement are raptors, night-migrating songbirds, and grassland birds.
Of these, grassland birds may not be as susceptible to collisions as raptors and night-migranting songbirds. However, some species, such as Greater Sage-Grouse, are stressed and displaced by tall structures where their predators can roost. This can influence the birds’ reproductive success and prevent genetic interchange between populations, thus threatening the species’ long-term survival16, 20, 22, 24, 28.
Raptors — though they have excellent vision — have their eyes focused on the ground looking for prey and do not detect the approach turbine blades, and night-time migrants do not see the blades.
Climate change certainly poses a significant threat to wildlife and their habitats, and wind power is viewed as a major player in our efforts to combat climate change.
However, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical. Back in the 1950s and ’60s, hydroelectric dams were viewed as a source of clean, renewable energy. Now they are being torn down due to their unintended environmental impacts11. A recent study even suggests that hydroelectric dams may contribute to climate change6.
The same goes for biofuels, which are now being seen as a contributor to climate change, rather than a viable source of clean, renewable energy23. Poorly sited wind turbines could be next in line for enhanced scrutiny.
Unfortunately, many individuals — and even some conservation organizations — have embraced wind energy completely without asking the hard questions about its environmental impacts. The wind industry and its proponents have contributed to this situation themselves, downplaying its impacts on wildlife3 while simultaneously overselling the industry’s ability to mitigate associated problems8. At the same time, industry players have worked behind the scenes to try to minimize state and federal regulations and to attack important environmental legislation, such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act21.
Wind turbines are a cleaner source of energy than fossil fuels. This is true. But does this mean wind energy developers should be less regulated than others in the energy sector? Should they be allowed to kill tens of thousands of federally protected birds and bats annually with impunity? We at ABC believe the answer to these questions is “no.”
In response to this very question, we at ABC developed the concept of “Bird-Smart” wind energy development. Put simply, this term is used to describe wind energy projects that are designed to minimize bird fatalities to every extent possible12. Bird-Smart wind energy:
Editor’s note: Learn more about Bird-Smart wind energy, and look for the next installment in our wind energy FAQ series for more information.
WASHINGTON — The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has confirmed a second case of highly pathogenic H7N9 avian influenza in a commercial breeder flock in Lincoln County, Tennessee.
This H7N9 strain is of North American wild bird lineage and is the same strain of avian influenza that was previously confirmed in Tennessee in a flock of 73,500 breeding broiler chickens.
It is not the same as the China H7N9 virus that has impacted poultry and infected humans in Asia, nor is it related to the virus that caused the 2015 U.S. outbreak.
The flock of 55,000 chickens is located in the Mississippi flyway, within three kilometers of the first Tennessee case.
Samples from the affected flock, which displayed signs of illness and experienced increased mortality, were tested at Tennessee’s Kord Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory and confirmed at the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa.
In 2015, an avian influenza outbreak triggered the destruction of millions of chickens and turkeys in the Midwest.
The USDA also said a flock of 84,000 turkeys at a Jennie-O Turkey Store farm near Barron, Wisconsin, had been confirmed with a low pathogenic H5N2 virus. The USDA stressed it was different from the highly pathogenic H5N2 virus that devastated the Midwest chicken egg and turkey industry in 2015.
State officials quarantined the affected premises, and depopulation has begun. Federal and state partners will conduct surveillance and testing of commercial and backyard poultry within a 10 kilometer (6.2 mile) radius of the site.
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is working directly with poultry workers at the affected facilities to ensure that they are taking the proper precautions to prevent illness and contain disease spread.
As a reminder, the proper handling and cooking of poultry and eggs to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. kills bacteria and viruses.
Avian influenza (AI) is caused by an influenza type A virus that can infect poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese and guinea fowl) and is carried by free flying waterfowl such as ducks, geese and shorebirds.
Meanwhile, take the H7N9 poll at: https://www.medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/infectioncontrol/63838
MAR. 15, 2017
For the second time in three years, a strain of avian flu is on the move through large-scale US chicken farms, alighting in Tennessee last week and more recently (in a milder form) in neighboring Alabama. Neither are known to infect humans.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump and the GOP-dominated Congress are mulling deep budget cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal agency that tracks such flu outbreaks and works with the US Department of Agriculture and local authorities to “minimize any human health risk” they cause.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act would eliminate a federal program called the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which provides the CDC with $891 million in annual funding, about an eighth of its budget. The cuts wouldn’t directly affect the CDC’s flu response program, but as Stat News notes, the CDC “would have a big hole to fill” if the Prevention and Public Health Fund dried up. That’s because it provides funding to crucial functions like promoting vaccines ($300 million for that alone), and the shortfall would have to be made up from other programs—putting the whole agency, potentially including the flu-tracking program, under budgetary stress.
Meanwhile, Trump isn’t expected to provide any additional funding for the CDC when he releases his proposed budget later this week. The opposite, in fact. The president has already announced his intention to boost military spending by $54 billion annually and offset it with an equal level of cuts from federal programs.
So the federal agency responsible for keeping the public safe from avian flu is looking at some serious budget stress going forward. According to the CDC, the risk that people will come down with the flu strain is “low,” but it still sees fit to work with the Department of Agriculture and state authorities on tracking outbreaks.
And public health officials have been warning for decades that massive livestock confinements make an ideal breeding ground for new virus strains. In its authoritative 2009 report, the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production warned that the “continual cycling of viruses and other animal pathogens in large herds or flocks increases opportunities for the generation of novel flu viruses through mutation or recombinant events that could result in more efficient human-to-human transmissions.” It added, “Agricultural workers serve as a bridging population between their communities and the animals in large confinement facilities.”
In Asia, a different strain of avian flu is circulating on poultry farms—and it sickened 460 people in China, causing 78 deaths, between the end of September 2016 and the end of February 2017, according to the World Health Organization. The CDC notes that most of those cases came from direct exposure to poultry, while person-to-person spread of the virus is “rare.” The nightmare scenario arrives when an avian flu strain mutates to both jump to people and spread easily among us.
The H5N2 strain of Avian flu has been found in a wild mallard duck in Fairbanks, Alaska, the first time the virus has appeared in the U.S. in 14 months. The discovery is significant, as Alaska lies directly on the migratory routes of birds that are headed to the lower parts of North America an Asia, making it a key location for introducing avian diseases from other locations. The virus has not been found in any wild birds in the U.S. since last June, when 50 million domestic birds died from the disease.
During the outbreak last year, millions of dollars were lost, as export partners suspended trade with countries and states with infected birds. Egg prices increased to record highs and there were turkey meat shortages. Last summer’s outbreak of avian flu was attributed to the droppings of wild ducks and geese flying across the country. Entire flocks of chickens and turkeys died after being infected.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued recommendations for farmers and poultry companies to increase their adherence to protocols for cleanliness and security, to try and ensure the health of their birds.
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