Bird flu ‘hits’ Galapagos National Park

Bird flu “hits” Galapagos National Park. “It was only a matter of time before he reached the Galapagos Islands; “This is both due to the arrival of seabirds that fly very widely and migrate from the coast of Ecuador and Peru, and also due to the arrival of migratory birds, because we are in the season when species migrate from north to south.” Jaime Chaves, a scientist in the Department of Biology at San Francisco State University, commented road.

The presence of the H5N1 virus has been detected for the first time in the Galapagos Islands. Photo: Rasheed Cruz.

H5N1 virus

After confirmation that the H5N1 virus that causes avian influenza has spread to birds in the Galapagos Islands, National park authorities have implemented a number of measures to reduce the risk of the spread of the virus. During the first operations, areas where affected species were found were closed to visitors. San Cristóbal Island Genoviza and Punta Pitt are closed to the public; in addition, visits to Española Island Punta Suarez and Punta Ceballos are also closed as a precautionary measure pause.

wild seabird

The virus has had a huge impact on wild seabird populations in several countries on the African continent. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), outbreaks of H5N1 viruses have been detected in poultry, farm and wild birds, and mammals in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, and Ecuador. , United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Avian influenza infection has also spread to some mammals, Mainly sea lions in South America and red foxes and skunks in North America.

Thousands of wild birds have died from bird flu in Peru. Photo: Andina Agency.

Pablo Plaza, a researcher at the National Council for Scientific and Technological Research (Conicet), pointed out that the beginning of the bird migration season may lead to “recombination of avian influenza viruses,” and the situation will become worse if there is an El Niño phenomenon . Marine fauna is a cause for concern.

What are the Galapagos Islands doing?

An outbreak of bird flu in the Galapagos Islands has also tightened safety measures for tourists. Reserve authorities have asked tour operators to implement strict procedures to disinfect shoes and clothing when embarking and disembarking from land-based tour sites, as well as disinfecting public outdoor areas and dinghies used by passengers when disembarking.

Chavez said there are still a lot of people migrating to the Galapagos from the mainland, so it’s difficult to control all the revenue in the area where the birds are, so the potential to repeat what’s happening elsewhere is very high

Bird flu is affecting wild birds in the Galapagos National Reserve. Photo: Tui de Roi.

Human-wildlife contact

Chavez is also concerned about the close contact between people and wildlife on the Galapagos Islands. “Humans have very close contact with wild animals and there are risks The virus may mutate and ultimately affect humans. Currently, it only affects seabirds, with the greatest impact on red-footed boobies. There are also frigates and other species of seabirds, but we still have no positive cases in mammals, which would be the next event that should be avoided. “

Chavez said it would be wise to quarantine sites with sources of infection so humans are not exposed to possible sources of infection. He noted that the boats also serve as landing ports for some birds, so they must be treated specially. “It’s not hard to see boats near the islands, and there are a lot of birds resting on top of the boats and defecating there. We have to try to avoid this kind of contact.”

It is necessary to generate an infection map

The researchers mentioned that now that the virus has been discovered in the Galapagos, it must be genome sequenced “to understand the relationship to populations elsewhere and to see if they are indeed the same (virus), e.g. , on a poultry farm, or whether they are the same as those in Peru.”

The researchers explained that it is necessary to generate a map of the infection to understand how the virus moves, where it stays, what changes occur at the genetic level and mutations in each population.

Galapagos Albatross
Wild birds in the Galapagos Islands are at risk due to the presence of avian influenza. Photo: Wildlife waving albatross/Vanessa Green.

“Sequencing these lineages across South America will give us a more complex and complete understanding of how this virus evolved and understand what steps were taken at the genetic level to make the virus more aggressive or jump between species,” Chavez added. “If we know that this virus has a high capacity to mutate and can affect mammals, like what happened in Peru, we can see if this mutation is already present in the Galapagos Islands. “We have to formulate More aggressive research and control programs to prevent this from happening because we know this mutation is already spreading in mammals. “

Number of bird flu cases in Peru

Research recently published in the journal Science “Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) strongly affects wild birds in Peru” biological protection, Data show that as of March 2023, a total of 100,485 bird deaths of 24 species have been recorded in Peruvian marine nature reserves. This study by researchers including Víctor Gamarra-Toledo and Pablo Plaza explains the impact of this virus on marine wildlife off the coast of Peru ( birds and mammals).

“The number of birds and individuals affected by this disease in Peru raises conservation concerns because of the severe impact this virus has on these populations and the ecosystem services they provide,” the study’s authors noted.

20% of Peruvian pelicans live in marine reserves

The H5N1 virus wiped out at least 20% of the pelican population in a Peruvian marine reserve. said study co-author Víctor Gamarra-Toledo, a researcher at the Natural History Museum of the National University of San Agustin de Arequipa.

Gamarra-Toledo also mentioned that these figures are underestimates because they only correspond to protected areas. “If you look at the Ministry of Health database, you’ll find about half a million birds died.”

Peruvian Ministry of Health Avian Influenza Unit

A review of data released by the Avian Influenza Unit of the Peruvian Ministry of Health provides information up to October this year, including the National Agency for Natural Reserves (Sernanp), the National Agency for Forestry and Wildlife (Serfor) and the National Agency for Natural Reserve Management. Bureau (Sernanp) data. The National Agricultural Food Sanitation and Quality Service (Senasa) are among the three agencies monitoring the impact of avian influenza in Peru.

According to these data, 277,474 birds have died in the nature reserve; while on the beaches outside the ANP, the number reached 61,630; on the other hand, the death toll in the Guano Islands and Points was 225,076, with wild birds The total number of losses in this category exceeded 500,000.

Thousands of birds have died from bird flu on the coast of Peru. Photo: Sernampe.


“What is happening is worrying, especially because the bird migration period has begun, coupled with the presence of El Niño. We don’t know what the effects of this new phase will be,” Gamarra-Toledo said. “It’s all happening very quickly. The number of dead penguins in Chile already exceeds the number in Peru,” he added.

Pablo Plaza of Conisette talks about El Niño’s impact on marine wildlife, citing historical records. “Historical records mention severe impacts on bird groups, especially guano birds. In the case of Peru, during the El Niño events of 1982-83 and 1996-97, the scientific literature mentions some bird species (such as Humboldt Penguins) have suffered a 40 to 50 percent decline in their numbers. Now we not only have El Niño but also avian influenza.”

Argentinian sea lions infected with bird flu

On August 10, Argentina’s National Agricultural Food Hygiene and Quality Service (Senasa) confirmed the first case of the H5N1 virus in a monohaired sea lion (Sophora flavescens) is located in Tierra del Fuego, near the Rio Grande. A few days later, positive cases emerged among wolves of the same species in the provinces of Rio Negro, Santa Cruz, Buenos Aires and Chubut. The virus has also been found in individual seals (Australia’s first fish).

By September 11, the first positive case of avian influenza in an elephant seal had appeared (Leonine Mironga) of Punta Tombo Nature Reserve, in Chubut. According to Senasa Argentina, of the 28 assessments conducted, 17 were positive.

Dozens of sea lions have died from bird flu in Argentina. Photo: Senasa Argentina.

Argentina and Uruguay

“In Argentina and Uruguay, east of the Andes, bird mortality is not that high. The same thing is happening with sea lions because the mortality rates in those two countries haven’t been that high so far,” Plaza said .

However, experts mentioned that there are still many unknown factors that need to be resolved, especially because the virus spreads so quickly between countries. “In less than a month, he arrived in Uruguay from Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.”

Experts say the biggest problem is when it reaches places rich in biodiversity, such as Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands or Argentina’s Valdes Peninsula, where many species congregate, with potentially catastrophic consequences.

Plaza noted that since the outbreaks in Argentina and Uruguay are still ongoing, the scale of the impact is unclear, but he clarified that sea lion mortality rates are high.

Avian influenza also affects elephant seals. Photo: PNoe/WCS.

Bird flu ‘hits’ Galapagos National Park

“We must prevent the spread of this pathogen to other areas of South America and Antarctica, where many susceptible species live and need protection. Around the world, it must be addressed as a new threat to the survival of many bird species .” Plaza said.

In my opinion, from a biogeographical point of view, for example in South America – the expert continues – it is very important to pay attention to the endemic birds of the Humboldt Current, whose mortality is worrying. Ecological and environmental characteristics of the Humboldt Current may be related to this high mortality rate. We’ll have to see what happens with bird migration in November and December. ” Bird flu “attacks” Galapagos National Park. Loquat Bay – Yvette Serra Praairi

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