Bird flu: Banham Zoo ramps up bio-security amid fears of disease outbreaks across East of England

bird flu banham zoo flamingo anglia
A mesh net is now protecting some enclosures such as the flamingos to protect the birds. Credit: ITV News Anglia

A zoo is ramping up its security measures and pausing its conservation breeding programme as fears rise about the outbreak of bird flu.

Bird flu restrictions have been imposed across Norfolk, Suffolk and parts of Essex following a string of outbreaks in poultry and wild birds - the worst outbreak the UK has ever seen.

It comes as DEFRA declared an avian influenza prevention zone (AIPZ) across the region to try to contain the virus and stop it spreading further.

As a result Banham Zoo - which does not have bird flu but is situated inside the surveillance zone - has closed some of its attractions.

Claudia Roberts, chief executive of the Zoological Society of East Anglia, which runs the zoo, told ITV News Anglia that although the attraction would remain open, more stringent measures were in place.

"We've had to close walk throughs - for example through our flamingoes. They are now inside a netted enclosure, and we've got foot dips at the entrance so our customers will have to make sure their feet are clean.

"It has a huge impact on our conservation breeding programmes because it also means we can't necessarily do certain animal transfers during this period of time, but it is all for the safety of our bird species.

"It would cost maybe hundreds of thousands of pounds in order to do [to mesh] maybe even a single enclosure, so it is an expensive thing to do.

"It is a difficult period and we are still recovering somewhat from Covid and now we've got the energy crisis, so it's another challenge - but the bio security measures we have in place will hopefully keep us safe for the moment."

Defra officials were seen entering a site at the centre of the exclusion zone on Wednesday. Credit: ITV News Anglia

It comes amid further outbreaks across the East - the latest believed to be at a farm near Snetterton.

On Wednesday afternoon, Defra officials were seen entering and leaving a site at the centre of the exclusion zone, but would not confirm that it was the site of the outbreak.

Mark Gorton, owns Traditional Norfolk Poultry and has more more than 60 farms across the region.

Two weeks ago, one of those in Norfolk was hit with bird flu and thousands of chickens had to be culled which he described as "devastating".

Mark Gorton says his biodiversity measures have also been stepped up to protect their poultry. Credit: ITV News Anglia

"It had a knock-on effect in affecting our supply to customers, but we will be resuming that supply in the next few days," he said.

"It is a huge worry for us. None of us really know what to expect going forward.

"It's moved away from the farming centres into the wild bird populations so there's a population of birds out there that continues to be affected.

"So coming into the winter.. we're just waiting for the wild birds to migrate in across from Northern Europe, we are really really concerned as to the levels of infection we're going to see.

"Already it's worse than it's ever been so goodness only knows what we've got to look forward to and it's a real, real worry about the future of poultry businesses."

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