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Research hopes to shed light on H1N1 and wild bird trade

By Theresia Sufa, Jakarta Post

1851 days ago   Article ID# 109572
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Wildlife Conservation Society

JAKARTA, INDONESIA (Jakarta Post) - The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has finished a joint research program with the Halimun Salak Mountain National Park Agency (TNGHS), hoping that the result from their combined efforts will shed light on wild bird trading.

The research, conducted at the eagle conservation site at TNGHS, looked at the prevalence and dynamics of the H1N1 Avian Flu pathogen in wild birds sold at the Empang bird market in Bogor and wild birds roaming the TNGHS area.

Joost Philippa, the manager of the project, part of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Global Health Program, said research was done from Sept. 5 to Sept. 18 by staff members from TNGHS and dozens of volunteers from Bogor's universities.

"The research we are doing is more about how we can conserve these species because the more birds are taken from the wild to be sold the more endangered they will be in the future," he said.

Researchers collected dead birds from the Empang market and capture wild birds from TNGHS. Fluid samples were taken from the birds.

"Besides taking samples, we will also measure the bird's weight and take their picture to put in a database. We also mark the birds by putting rings on their legs before releasing them back to the wild so if they get captured again we will be able to tell their movements, survival rate, breeding age, life cycle, diet and the rate at which the bird carry diseases," Joost said, adding that the rings were loaned from the Indonesian Science Institute (LIPI).

He said birds from Empang bird market were analyzed because vendors got them from TNGHS, often putting them in one cage with other wild and domesticated birds.

He said this facilitated the transfer of avian flu from wild to domesticated birds, but the flu strain itself originated from wild birds.

He said, the trading of wild birds was a potential breeding ground for new infectious diseases that may one day threaten the health of humans, domestic and wild animals.

He said the density and trading of multi species populations could facilitate transmission and mutation of pathogens such as the H1N1 virus.

He said such pathogens could circulate among wild birds without causing symptoms but if an infected bird was caged with other species, such as in chicken farms or bird markets, then this could increase the prevalence of viruses.

Lia Nugraha, a wildlife veterinary assistant working in the same program said the samples taken were still being studied at the Bogor Veterinarian Research Facility (Balitvet).

She said samples from 22 bird species had been examined for two weeks now, adding that some of the species collected included sparrows, Bondol birds and the Kutilang birds.

TNGHS birds contributed 100 fluid samples while dead wild birds from bird markets gave the researchers some 700 samples to work on.

Meanwhile, head of the TNGHS, Bambang Supriyanto, said the park's inventory had been enriched by the research as no comprehensive study had been previously conducted on the birds in the Mount Salak area.

He said the results would prove useful for the park's management in protecting birdlife.

In a separate interview, Ujang, a bird trader working at the Empang bird market in Bogor, admitted that he had been taking wild birds from the Salak Mountain and selling them because it was easier since the Mount Salak area was much more accessible for hunting purposes than the Halimun Mountain or the Gede Pangrango Mountain.

"I hunt for these birds from the Salak Mountain area, and sometimes I order some from bird catchers who work in the Halimun Mountain area," said Ujang, who has been a bird trader since 1980. "Most of the birds sold here are tweeter birds with good voices like Canaries, Kutilang and the red anis bird," Ujang said.

The birds may sell for as little as Rp 20,000 (slightly more than US$2.06) up to Rp 300,000 depending on the species. A good bird with a good voice may even sell for as much as Rp 1.5 million. However, the cheapest bird for sale in the market is a sparrow, which costs only Rp 1,000.

Copyright 2014 Jakarta Post   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 1851 days ago   Article ID# 109572

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