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Tuesday 24 August 2004
A sampling programme for water birds in the Firth of Thames got underway over
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), Massey University's
Epicentre, the Department of Conservation, Ministry of Health and the
Ornithological Society of New Zealand are involved in the survey as part of the
development of a wildlife disease surveillance strategy for New Zealand.
Sampling of birds started on Friday 20 August 2004 and will run until March
2005. It has two main purposes: to evaluate a non-invasive technique for taking
faecal samples from birds; and to determine the status of avian influenza
viruses in endemic and migratory water birds, MAF Indigenous Flora and Fauna
Team Manager Christine Reed said today.
"Migratory birds have been identified as a potential risk pathway, albeit
very low risk, for diseases like avian influenza to enter New Zealand. This
survey will determine whether influenza viruses are present in waterbirds in the
Firth of Thames area. This area is a preferred location for migratory birds such
as the Red Knots, Turnstones and Bar-tailed Godwits, which will start arriving
from their Northern Hemisphere breeding grounds from September to December,"
Christine Reed said.
"The first part of the work involves sampling endemic wading birds, such as
the Wrybill, and water birds prior to this season's arrival of migratory birds.
Once the visitors arrive they will also be sampled. The final part of the survey
involves a re-sampling of the endemic bird species a few months later to
determine if there are any new viruses in the population.
"Traditionally samples are collected by using a swab. This is an invasive
technique that involves catching the birds to be sampled. The birds are released
after testing and the process does not harm them. For the purposes of this
survey we plan to capture the birds and use swabs to obtain samples but will
also be investigating the practicalities of using non-invasive techniques, such
as collecting faeces from feeding areas and comparing these results with swab
The experience gained will form a useful part of MAF's future wildlife
disease surveillance strategy," Christine Reed said.
Media contact: Christine Reed, MAF Manager, Indigenous Flora and Fauna Team
Phone: 0-4-470-2756or 0-21-165-2977 Email: