Culling to take place amid bird flu outbreak at Paignton Zoo

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Birds are set to be killed at a South West zoo after testing positive for a highly-infectious strain of bird flu.

Two cases of avian flu have been confirmed at Paignton Zoo, which remains closed to the public.

A pelican tested positive for the virus earlier this week and today (1 September) the zoo confirmed one of its peafowls has also tested positive.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has told the zoo that affected birds will be humanely culled.

The Devon zoo says it is not yet clear how many birds will be considered to be "affected", but has described any deaths as "heartbreaking".

It comes after a number of avian flu outbreaks have been reported in the South West as the UK battles its worst-ever outbreak.

A protection zone has been set up covering all of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, meaning there are new rules in place for all bird keepers.

A spokesperson for Wild Planet Trust, which runs Paignton Zoo, said: “Throughout this incredibly difficult period we have been working closely with officials from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) and DEFRA as they assess the extent of the outbreak and determine their next course of action. 

“Our mission at Wild Planet Trust is to protect at-risk species and we firmly hold onto our belief that every species is important. Despite the continuing hard work by all of our staff to minimise the impact of this disease upon our animals, we have been informed by DEFRA that affected animals will be humanely culled. This action will be undertaken by staff from DEFRA.   

“We are currently waiting for clarification from APHA on which species they consider to be directly affected and we anticipate being informed imminently. Once we have received this information we will comply with APHA requirements. 

“This is heart-breaking news for all of us here at Paignton Zoo, and our priority at this time remains to do all we can to protect our birds.

“In the meantime we will continue to implement biosecurity measures and quarantine plans which include relocating birds to new quarantine facilities on-site.”

Paignton Zoo will remain closed until Monday 5 September and visitors with pre-booked tickets will receive a full refund.