Israel hit by ‘worst’ wildlife disaster
An outbreak of avian flu in Israel has killed at least 5,200 migratory cranes and forced farmers to cull as many as 500,000 poultry birds to contain what has been called the “worst blow to wildlife” in the country’s history.
The dead cranes were discovered on Sunday at the Hula Nature Reserve, in northern Israel. Local media outlets reported that some 25,000 cranes were thought to have landed this year at the popular reserve, which is situated along a major bird migration route.
Park rangers wearing hazardous-material suits have been pictured collecting thousands of carcasses from the Hula lake and other outlying areas at the reserve. Dozens of the birds were reportedly found to be sick nearly 10 days ago.
“Many of the birds are dead in the middle of the water body, so it’s difficult for them to be taken out,” Uri Naveh, a senior scientist at the Israel Parks and Nature Authority, told the news agency AP, adding that the cleanup situation was not yet under control and the team was looking for “other solutions.”
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with security advisers and health experts on Monday to discuss efforts to prevent the spread of the bird flu (H5N1). The prime minister’s office said in a statement that no human transmission had been reported so far.
Warning that the “extent of the damage was still unclear,” Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg described the outbreak as “the worst blow to wildlife in the country’s history” in a tweet on Sunday.
הפגיעה החמורה ביותר בחיות בר בתולדות המדינה. 5000 עגורים מתים משפעת העופות באגמון החולה, ועוד לא ברור היקף הנזק. ביקרתי שם היום עם נציגי רשות הטבע והגנים וקרן קיימת לישראל pic.twitter.com/i0Qb4CzQAJ— תמר זנדברג 🟣 (@tamarzandberg) December 26, 2021
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority believes that the disease spread from the community of Moshav Margaliot on the border with Lebanon. The Times of Israel reported that a truck driver who delivered feed to the chicken coops there had then brought food to the Hula Reserve.
The Agriculture Ministry told the paper that the farmers in Margaliot had failed to report the outbreak when it was discovered, allowing it to “spread like wildfire.” The ministry also detected H5N1 hotspots in three other farming communities that have since been isolated.
A ministry spokesperson told AP that half a million chickens in the affected area were being culled to prevent the disease from spreading.