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Posted: October 7, 2022 | 8:34 am
Since last February, the Abilene Zoo has been closely monitoring the outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), a viral respiratory disease found in birds. During the spring, three cases of HPAI were reported in Texas, with the majority of cases concentrated on the west coast of the United States by summer. During this time, Abilene Zoo patrons may recall a number of steps taken to protect our bird population, including the proactive, temporary removal of birds from exhibit.
The Abilene Zoo recently began a second implementation of safety protocols against HPAI as a new case of HPAI in Dallas County was confirmed by authorities. However, just as precautions were being implemented, zoo staff was saddened to find a crested screamer, a type of waterfowl, deceased on exhibit. The death was sudden and unexpected, causing the Abilene Zoo veterinary team to test for HPAI. While an initial test came back negative, one of two other labs confirmed HPAI was present. This sample was then sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory where HPAI was also confirmed.
“Our birds are currently under a state mandated quarantine. Once that is completed and we as a veterinary team deem it safe, we will allow the birds to return to public display.” said Dr. Stephanie Carle, Abilene Zoo Senior Veterinarian. “I am honored to work with the team here at the Abilene Zoo. They implemented our action plans quickly and effectively. We will be monitoring our immediate area and the State of Texas before making any further changes to our response plan.”
HPAI is predominantly transmitted through direct bird-to-bird contact, and the risk of infection for humans is extremely low. Regardless, the Abilene Zoo has taken precautions to ensure the safety of all, including the use of personal protective equipment and additional disinfection points. Any birds that may potentially have direct contact with wild waterfowl have been moved to behind-the-scenes areas. The Abilene Zoo’s Bird Rehabilitation Center is also temporarily suspending the intake of birds.
While there is not currently a timeline for the return of birds to exhibit, Abilene Zoo leadership and veterinary staff will monitor the situation and take appropriate action to protect our bird collection. We all look forward to announcing the return of birds to exhibit at the Abilene Zoo, and greatly appreciate everyone’s patience as we work to protect our feathered friends.
Abilene Zoo was founded in 1966 as a collaborative partnership between the City of Abilene and the Abilene Zoological Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving wildlife and protecting wild places. Through its passion and expertise in animal care, conservation, and education, the Abilene Zoo’s mission is a place of learning and adventure where people make memories, share in the joy of discovery, and become inspired to save wildlife. Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums since 1985, this West Texas Zoo sees 129 school districts from over 51 Texas counties in addition to over a quarter of a million guests each year.