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Cincinnati Zoo moves birds indoors to protect against avian flu

greenish bird with beak open
Cassandre Crawford
Courtesy of Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
This bird is outraged over the avian flu situation. Just kidding. However, wildlife officials say the strain of the flu is no joking matter and has killed scores of birds across the country.

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is stepping up safety protocols to protect its bird population from the highly contagious and potentially deadly avian flu. All at-risk birds have been temporarily moved to indoor habitats.

"It's a temporary measure meant to reduce our flock's exposure to wild birds," says Jenny Gainer, curator of birds and task force leader. "The threat level should diminish after the spring migration. We have established a comprehensive protocol that will guide our decisions on when to return birds to their outdoor spaces."

As WVXU previously reported, a zoo task force has been monitoring the situation and some birds had already been moved inside. Earlier this month, zoo officials said they'd move more indoors if a case of avian flu were detected within 100 miles of the zoo.

The zoo reports a new case was reported 35 miles away on Thursday, prompting the move.

"None of our birds have symptoms, and our goal is to keep it that way," Gainer says.

penguins frolic on a sandy area with a rocky backdrop and some greenery
Lisa Hubbard
Courtesy of Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
Penguins are among the birds that have been relocated indoors for safety.

Birds moved indoors include: bald eagles, saddle-billed stork, gray crowned crane, Eurasian eagle owl, barred owl, white-naped pheasant pigeons, Little blue penguins, African penguins, trumpeter swans, kea, vultures, guineafowl, and Andean condors.

The Birds of the World habitats "South America" and "Australasia" are also closed to the public until further notice.

The avian flu outbreak started on the East Coast and spread west. It can cause a variety of symptoms, including nasal discharge, weakness, and diarrhea. It's mainly spread by migratory and shorebirds.

According to NPR, "Birds shed the virus through their droppings and nasal discharge. Experts say it can be spread through contaminated equipment, clothing, boots and vehicles carrying supplies. Research has shown that small birds that squeeze into zoo exhibits or buildings can also spread the flu, and that mice can even track it inside.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.