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2022-8-8 5:31:29

Malaysia:Blood taken from birds to screen for avian flu
submited by kickingbird at Dec, 2, 2004 9:15 AM from The Star

Officers of the Penang Veterinary Services Department have taken blood samples from an unspecified number of hill mynas reared by a bird dealer in Seberang Prai to screen for the H5N1 strain of the deadly avian flu. 

A source from the department’s headquarters here said that about 100 birds acquired by the dealer through an auction by the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) on Nov 12 were suspected to have originated from one of the several bird-flu-infected neighbouring countries. 

“The department is still unclear of the origin of the birds. We are taking the samples as part of our monitoring of the bird flu situation in the country,” he said. 

The samples have been sent to the department’s laboratory in Ipoh and the results would be known in a few days. 

The mimicking birds, locally known as Tiong Mas, were seized from a pet shop in Masai, Johor, on Nov 4.  

Enforcement director Misliah Mohd Basir said the pet shop owner could not produce any relevant documents, including the import permit, during the raid and was deemed to have smuggled in the birds. 

The species is classified under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites). 

The owner of the pet shop, an African American, was charged under the Wildlife Protection Act at the magistrate’s court in Johor Baru yesterday for illegal possession of the birds. He claimed trial and the court fixed Jan 18 for hearing. 

The current law has no provision for smuggling activities. Amendments to the Act are still pending although it had been considered for many years. 

Misliah said the birds were not released into the wild, as the species Gracula religiosa intermediata is not native to Malaysia, adding that the country of origin was yet to be determined.  

Under Cites, the confiscating country is obliged to inform the country of origin of the seizure to arrange for eventual repatriation. 

“We, therefore, took the decision to auction the birds as that would bring in revenue for the department instead of destroying them. The birds were in generally-good condition, although about 30 died due to stress during transportation from Johor to the Perhilitan headquarters,” she added. 

To a question that the allegedly-smuggled birds might be infected with bird flu, she said the breeder in Seberang Prai would know better not to acquire these birds if they were infected as he would also fear that the virus would spread to his other birds. 

She said there was no clear directive from the Veterinary Services Department on the importation of wild birds, adding that Perhilitan had taken its own initiative in refraining from issuing any import permits for birds from Thailand and Vietnam following the second wave of the avian flu outbreak in the two countries. 

Asked how Perhilitan was going to ensure that the birds would not be released into the local environment should the breeder sell them to locals, Misliah said the birds would be tagged, enabling the department to trace the owners.  

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