Philadelphia Zoo adjusts to protect birds from avian flu


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Philadelphia Zoo has been taking precautions over the past few months to protect its birds from the potentially fatal avian flu. Until recently, all of its birds were kept indoors, unable to be seen by visitors.

However, the zoo is making adjustments to some enclosures to make them visible.

Crews at the zoo on Wednesday used a saw to create an enclosed porch where Caribbean flamingos are housed, indoors and off-exhibit.

Crews at the Philadelphia Zoo are creating an enclosed porch where Caribbean flamingos are housed, indoors and off-exhibit.

Photo credit Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio

The structure will allow zoo guests to see the flamingos while still keeping them safe and separated from wild birds and their droppings.

The CDC says avian flu has been found in more than 100 wild bird species, and it can spread rapidly, potentially killing domesticated poultry and other birds. Avian flu can also be deadly to humans, with similar symptoms to those from COVID-19.

“As our animal team looks at cases in the area [and] works with other organizations that are working to protect birds, we are seeing how many cases are in the area and evaluating it on those numbers,” said Zoo spokesperson Maria Bryant.

“Whether or not the birds will come out.”

Workers are taking COVID-19 pandemic-like steps to keep birds safe.

Workers at the Philadelphia Zoo are taking COVID-19 pandemic-like steps to keep birds safe.

Workers at the Philadelphia Zoo are taking COVID-19 pandemic-like steps to keep birds safe.

Photo credit Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio

“There are a number of different precautions in place,” said Bryant.

“All of our keepers, and anyone who interacts with the animals, are wearing protection like you would for COVID-19, masks, gloves, all that good stuff. They are also limiting contact with wild birds, so that’s why many of the birds are still off-exhibit.”

The emus are less at risk of contracting the bird flu. They were the first to go back into an outdoor enclosure with their kangaroo friends, after being kept off exhibit for several months.

The emus were the first to go back into an outdoor enclosure with their kangaroo friends, after being kept off exhibit for several months.

The emus were the first to go back into an outdoor enclosure with their kangaroo friends, after being kept off exhibit for several months.

Photo credit Holli Stephens/KYW Newsradio

The public can now see some of the other birds, but from a distance.

“The McNeil Avian Center, we actually reopened our atrium which does allow our guests to see some of our birds,” said Bryant. “Most notably, you can see our great blue turaco ‘Cookie Monster’ from that space, but we are not allowing guests to walk through right now just because we need to protect our birds.”

Zoo crews have drained the Penguin Point pool, and the little guys remain out of public view for now.

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