Hun­dreds of ducks dead as bot­u­lism strikes pond

Matamata Chronicle - - Front Page -

Auck­land Waikato Fish & Game is ask­ing landown­ers and hunters to mon­i­tor wa­ter­fowl pop­u­la­tions on their prop­er­ties and ponds for any signs of sick or dead birds.

The call comes fol­low­ing Fish & Game be­ing no­ti­fied of an out­break of avian bot­u­lism on an ox­i­da­tion pond at Mata­mata which has killed an es­ti­mated 900 ducks.

Mata­mata-pi­ako Dis­trict Coun­cil has been man­ag­ing the out­break since it was dis­cov­ered in Jan­uary.

‘‘ Our staff iden­ti­fied the dis­ease and im­me­di­ately took ac­tion to man­age the sit­u­a­tion.

‘‘At the time we were un­aware of any obli­ga­tion we had to no­tify Fish & Game, how­ever once we ad­vised them we be­gan work­ing to­gether to es­tab­lish a draft bot­u­lism man­age­ment plan to deal with the cur­rent out­break and to en­sure it is dealt with cor­rectly in fu­ture,’’ said the coun­cil’s group man­ager of ser­vice de­liv­ery, Fiona Vessey.

‘‘We are now fo­cus­ing on pre­vent­ing the ducks from land­ing on the pond. Fish & Game have loaned us bird scar­ers and we are also us­ing gas-loaded guns to scare the ducks with the noise.

‘‘The Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion and the Hamil­ton Avian Wildlife Re­hab Trust are also pro­vid­ing ad­vice and sup­port.’’

South­ern game bird man­ager David Klee said landown­ers and hunters in the area should check their ponds to en­sure sick wa­ter­fowl had not dis­persed from the site of the out­break.

Symp­toms in­clude vary­ing de­grees of paral­y­sis, sag­ging heads, droop­ing wings and flight­less­ness.

If landown­ers or hunters ob­serve such signs they are asked to con­tact David Klee, 021 300 183, at Auck­land Waikato Fish & Game im­me­di­ately for ad­vice on how to deal with the sit­u­a­tion.

‘‘It is pos­si­ble to man­age out­breaks of avian bot­u­lism. Re­mov­ing dead birds and dis­pos­ing of them in an ap­pro­pri­ate man­ner is cru­cial, that’s why we’re ask­ing hunters and landown­ers to be vig­i­lant.’’

Mr Klee said Fish & Game was ac­tively work­ing with lo­cal and ter­ri­to­rial au­thor­i­ties by pro­vid­ing them with the rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion on how to man­age bot­u­lism and mit­i­gate its im­pact.

Fish & Game would like to thank hunt­ing club mem­bers and Fish & Game coun­cil­lors for as­sist­ing in the bird dis­per­sal ac­tiv­ity around the Mata­mata wastew­a­ter treat­ment plant where the out­break oc­curred. What is avian bot­u­lism? A se­ri­ous neu­romus­cu­lar ill­ness caused by a toxin pro­duced by the bac­terium Clostrid­ium bo­tulinum. Spores can lie dor­mant for many years in soil un­til favourable en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions lead to an out­break. It has the po­ten­tial to kill large num­bers of wa­ter­fowl. Is an out­break com­mon? Avian bot­u­lism out­breaks of­ten oc­cur at wastew­a­ter treat­ment plant sites as these ar­eas pro­vide the per­fect con­di­tions for the bac- terium which pro­duces the toxin. Out­breaks typ­i­cally co­in­cide with pe­ri­ods of hot, dry and calm weather from De­cem­ber to March but can oc­cur out­side this pe­riod. Is it a threat to hu­mans? Avian bot­u­lism is dif­fer­ent to the strain of bot­u­lism that af­fects hu­mans.

For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion con­tact Auck­land Waikato Fish & Game’s south­ern game bird man­ager David Klee on 021 300 183

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