Thousands of migratory cranes have died from bird flu in northern Israel, posing a crisis for the poultry industry.
© Ronen Zvulun/Reuters
Thousands of migratory cranes have died from bird flu in northern Israel, posing a crisis for the poultry industry.
A bird flu outbreak in northern Israel has killed at least 5,200 migratory cranes and forced farmers to slaughter hundreds of thousands of chickens as authorities try to contain what they say is the deadliest wildlife disaster in the nation's history.

Uri Naveh, a senior scientist at the Israel Parks and Nature Authority, said the situation was not yet under control. "Many of the birds are dead in the middle of the water body so it's difficult for them to be taken out," he said on Monday.

Environmental protection minister Tamar Zandberg called the crisis "the most serious damage to wildlife in the history of the country". "The extent of the damage is still unclear," she tweeted.

Yaron Michaeli, a spokesperson for the Hula Lake park, where the crane population is mainly based, said workers were removing the carcasses as quickly as possible, fearing they could infect other wildlife.


Dafna Yurista, spokesperson for the Agriculture Ministry, said half a million chickens in the area were being slaughtered to prevent the disease from spreading.

About 500,000 cranes pass through Israel each year on the way to Africa and a small number stay behind, Michaeli said. This year, an estimated 30,000 cranes stayed in Israel for the winter.

Michaeli said it was believed the cranes were infected by smaller birds that had contact with farms affected by outbreaks.

Israeli officials are retrieving crane carcasses as quickly as possible to contain the spread of the virus.
© Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock
Israeli officials are retrieving crane carcasses as quickly as possible to contain the spread of the virus.
Israeli media carried photos of workers in white hazmat suits collecting crane carcasses after the birds were first found to be sick about 10 days ago.

Michaeli said the deaths among cranes appeared to have stabilised in recent days. "This is a good sign," he said. "They might be starting to get over this. We hope very much."

Prime minister Naftali Bennett's office said officials from the agriculture, environment and health ministries were monitoring the situation. There was no immediate information about infections among people, it said.

Naveh said the cleanup was going more slowly than expected. "We are trying to see if there's any other solutions," he said.

Source: AP