No threat of bird flu in Malaysia from migrating birds of prey, says expert
Published on: Tuesday, March 16, 2021
By: Bernama
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A flock of geese fly over a field in Linum, Germany while migrating south on October 8, 2011. (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)
ALOR GAJAH: No threat of bird flu (H5N8) has been detected in Malaysia during the migration of birds of prey (raptors) from the southern hemisphere which has been underway since early March, said Malaysian Nature Society president Professor Dr Ahmad Ismail.

He said although there were cases of bird flu detected in Algeria in February due to the migration of the birds, Malaysia is however so far safe from the threat.

“In Malaysia, the migratory birds that often come to the Straits of Melaka in March are different from the birds that migrate to parts of Africa.

"However, the birds that migrate here face a habitat threat, especially in the mangrove swamps affected by the oil spill which occurred last October and has not been fully cleaned up," he said when met by Bernama in Tanjung Tuan, here, today.

In February, Algeria declared a state of emergency after the World Organisation for Animal Health announced an outbreak of bird flu that hit the eastern part of the country.

Algerian Agriculture Minister Abdelhamid Hamdani was quoted as saying that the source of the virus was detected from birds that migrated with the outbreak in the town of Ain Fakrounm.

Ahmad, who is a lecturer in ecotoxicology and wildlife ecology, Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Universiti Putra Malaysia said monitoring for the possibility of bird flu should be continued from time to time to prevent it from happening.

He said so far there were about 15,000 birds of prey detected over the past 10 days with the group of birds inhabiting the mangrove swamps along the Straits of Melaka.

He was commenting on the coastal forest in Tanjung Tuan which is a buffer for coastal erosion in Melaka as well as habitat for various species of life including birds of prey which are increasingly being affected due to the spills that are difficult to clean up. adding that the matter should be given attention by all concerned.

“This coastal mangrove forest area is very important because birds of prey need it for food such as rats, lizards and young birds.

"The oil spill could cause the mangrove trees to die and cause disruption to the habitat of these migratory birds which are highly dependent on the environment to survive," he said.

Raptors are birds that have hunter and predator characteristics such as light wings, sharp eyes, hooked beaks, large and sharp claws.

In winter in the northern hemisphere, when food resources in breeding areas decline, raptors will migrate to the warmer south because food is more readily available.

Among the birds of prey that often migrate to the Straits of Melaka every March are the Oriental honey buzzard, black baza, Japanese sparrowhawk, Chinese goshawk, brahminy kite and Gray-faced buzzard.

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