The GWCT is advising its members and those within the shooting community that current regulations to reduce the risk of bird flu are due to change.
Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has confirmed that, subject to there being no new outbreaks or findings in wild birds, the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, currently in place in England, will be lifted on Monday, May 15.
Gamekeepers will no longer be required by law to follow specific disease prevention measures to reduce the risk of infection from wild birds.
But the government is advising that all keepers should continue to follow industry best practice on biosecurity, including minimising movement in and out of bird enclosures, cleaning footwear, keeping areas where birds live clean and tidy, and feeding birds indoors.
The latest assessment shows that the overall risk in England has fallen from ‘medium’ to ‘low’, comparable with risk levels in November 2016, and should continue to fall in warmer, drier spring weather conditions.
A ban on poultry gatherings will also be lifted in England on May 15, meaning poultry gatherings can resume from this date, subject to some additional identity and health checks and biosecurity measures.
In Wales, following consideration of the latest risk assessment and veterinary evidence the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs announced that the current Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, which expired on April 30, will not be replaced.
However, the temporary suspension on gatherings of some species of birds will remain in place as additional evidence is considered.
In Scotland, the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone announced on February 22 2017 continues to apply until at least the 30 April 2017. As part of the current requirements, keepers may let their poultry and captive birds out as long as they have enhanced biosecurity measures in place.
And in Northern Ireland, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has announced an extension to the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone until 31 May 2017.
Roger Draycott from the GWCT Advisory Service said: “It is good news that the absence of any recent positive cases combined with the warmer, drier weather indicates that the current outbreak appears to be coming to an end.
“However, it is vital that we are not complacent and that we continue to follow best practice with all our game management activities and have scrupulous attention to detail with our biosecurity measures. A recurrence of bird flu could have a significant impact on next season’s game shooting. Please continue to report suspicious bird deaths and remain vigilant.”
Notes to editors
The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust – providing research-led conservation for a thriving countryside. The GWCT is an independent wildlife conservation charity which has carried out scientific research into Britain’s game and wildlife since the 1930s. We advise farmers and landowners on improving wildlife habitats. We employ 22 post-doctoral scientists and 50 other research staff with expertise in areas such as birds, insects, mammals, farming, fish and statistics. We undertake our own research as well as projects funded by contract and grant-aid from Government and private bodies. The Trust is also responsible for a number of Government Biodiversity Action Plan species and is lead partner for grey partridge and joint lead partner for brown hare and black grouse.
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