Lehigh Valley Zoo
November 11, 2022
LEHIGH VALLEY ZOO UPDATES ITS RESPONSE TO HIGHLY PATHOGENIC AVIAN INFLUENZA (HPAI) AS BIRDS CONTINUE TO BE AFFECTED
(Schnecksville, PA) – Lehigh Valley Zoo has continually monitored this year’s abnormally high spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) to best determine the level of risk to its birds. Recently, two cases of HPAI affected birds were found in Lehigh County, both of which are less than 10 miles from the Zoo. Based on the close proximity to the Zoo, animal care, veterinary and leadership teams made the challenging decision to move the majority of the birds on exhibit to indoor spaces in order to eliminate contact with wild birds on Zoo grounds.
In addition to its collection African penguins and lorikeets, which were kept off exhibit for a three-month stretch earlier this year, the ravens and all animal in the Birds of Prey section have been moved indoors. The Zoo’s Barnyard birds and waterfowl continue to remain off exhibit. Due to indoor space limitations, large birds such as emu and ostrich will remain in their exhibits. Other precautions continuing include higher levels of biosecurity for birds, including personal protective equipment for staff; restricted access to bird areas; and modifications to existing habitats.
“We have protocols and procedures in place to ensure the health and welfare of our animals. Unfortunately, sometimes this means they will be away from public view for a short period of time,” said Amanda Shurr, President & CEO. “Our dedicated staff of veterinarians and animal care professionals was able to quickly respond in order to better protect our resident birds. We will continue to provide excellent care for these birds in their off-exhibit housing, and we will also work to make modifications to their current Zoo habitats so that we can return them there as quickly and safely as possible. The Lehigh Valley Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is proud to demonstrate how we are upholding some of the highest standards in the field.
In February, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the presence of HPAI in the U.S., along the North American Atlantic flyway. Since then, the spread of this HPAI outbreak has grown and cases have been confirmed in 47 of 50 states, both in commercial flocks and wild birds. HPAI is highly contagious among wild and domestic birds, causing extreme illness and possibly death. As a result of the highly transmissible nature of HPAI, Zoos throughout the country have implemented enhanced safety precautions to protect the birds in their care.
The Zoo is committed to protecting the birds in its care, and will continue to work closely with other AZA Zoos, the USDA, the State Veterinary Medical Officer, APHIS and the Department of Public Health to stay current and abreast of any new updates. Earlier this year, the Zoo took steps to protect its highest risk birds by moving them indoors. This included African penguins, barnyard birds and waterfowl. The African penguins were able to return to their outdoor exhibit this summer, while the highest risk birds have remained indoors. There is no timeline as to how long this virus can affect birds in the U.S. While cases decreased in the early summer, they have increased again in the past two months as the winter bird migration has increased.
Symptoms of HPAI in birds include sneezing, coughing, walking or swimming in circles, and swelling of the legs and feet. Although wild waterfowl are the most common carriers, they are often asymptomatic while birds of prey, such as hawks and owls, and scavengers, such as crows and gulls, may show more severe infection. Other animals susceptible include carnivores, non-human primates, and pigs with possible infection occurring after the animal consumes an infected bird or consumes food that has been contaminated an infected bird.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the recent HPAI detections in birds do not present an immediate public health concern, with no human cases detected in the U.S.
As a member-supported non-profit organization, Lehigh Valley Zoological Society was founded in 2004, but it has been treasured community landmark for centuries. Located in the Lehigh Valley’s Trexler Game Preserve, we have educated and entertained more than five million people. Accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the Lehigh Valley Zoo hosts year-round, family-friendly events and activities, educational programs, and camps. Through a mission to create a safe, engaging and enlightening wildlife experience for guests of all ages, the Zoo demonstrates leadership in the cultural, scientific and conservation communities. To learn more about Lehigh Valley Zoo, we invite you to visit our website, www.lvzoo.org, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.