Bird flu killed at least 750 pelicans found dead in Senegal’s Djoudj bird sanctuary, after authorities had initially ruled out the disease, scientific analysis has shown.
The birds – 740 juveniles and 10 adults – were discovered in the Djoudj national bird sanctuary on 23 January, and the country’s environment ministry said on Wednesday it had been closed to the public.
Now “we have the results of the analysis. It is indeed bird flu type A H5N1,” national parks director, Bocar Thiam, told Agence France-Presse.
The environment minister, Karim Sall, confirmed the bird flu diagnosis to RFM radio.
A mixture of wetlands, savannah, canals, marshes and lakes nestled in the Senegal river delta, Djoudj harbours more than 3m individual birds from almost 400 species.
Thiam had initially ruled out bird flu, claiming that it only affected birds that eat grains, rather than fish-eating birds like pelicans.
But the analysis by the ministry of livestock disproved that theory.
While the pelicans’ bodies and waste have been destroyed, parks chief Thiam said on Friday that “we’ll have to do more” to prevent the disease from spreading.
At the start of the year, Senegal culled more than 40,000 poultry after an outbreak of bird flu was detected on a farm in Thies in the west of the country.
Almost 60,000 birds had died in the preceding weeks, the livestock ministry said.
Authorities now believe that cluster has been stamped out.
Senegal’s borders have been closed to poultry products since a 2005 bird flu epidemic to prevent contaminations, but the government struggles to prevent illicit imports from neighbouring countries.
Several European countries are also suffering bird flu outbreaks, with 2m animals – mostly ducks – culled in France in December to try and keep it in check.