Dead Black Swans at Bowen Qld.

To: "Townsville BOCA Sightings" <>, <>, "Birding-aus" <>
Subject: Dead Black Swans at Bowen Qld.
From: "Jon Wren" <>
Date: Wed, 11 Oct 2006 20:17:05 +1000
Gooday all,
Over the last week I have been involved with the Bowen Shire Council through Jon Gibbons, Environmental Health Officer after the report of sick and dead birds in our community. My involvement seemed to be only for identification purposes. The Bowen Independent of Friday 6 October 2006 gave front page coverage along with a graphic photograph of 4 dead juv. Black Swans with 3 heads severed/bitten from their bodies at "The Pocket" Queens Beach Bowen Qld, 20 00 00S. At the same time the Bowen Vet had been receiving a number of sick young Black Swans from concerned members of the public One bird died shortly after arrival but the remainder have survived so far. At the time it was not clear whether this was due to a natural event such as Botulism. Bowen Shire Council contacted National Parks and Wildlife Service Whitsunday Office who then passed on the information to the Qld. Dept. of Primary Industries and Fisheries in Mackay. They immediately implemented their Avian Influenza protocol. The 4 dead birds at "the Pocket" were collected along with other birds and people advised not to touch or assist sick birds in the Bowen region. This was done in a limited manner so as not to create any public hysteria due to the unidentified circumstances surrounding the deaths. On Saturday afternoon 7 Oct 2006 I received a phone call from Lyle of the DPI&F who informed me that the specimens had returned a negative to Avian Influenza but did not specify what had killed the birds. Autopsies and laboratory tests were conducted immediately with blood samples and tissue samples taken and sent to two Laboratories for further testing analyses.
From the description that Jon Gibbons gave me, Lyle (DPI&F) who collected
the birds looked like the "Michelin man" when all kitted up for the task.
Dr Glanville General Manager DPI&F Animal Biosecurity stated "It was not uncommon in extended drought conditions for birds to die on ponds and lakes, or for them to fly to local beaches and then die. There are a number of potential causes for these bird deaths, and now that avian influenza has been shown not to be the cause, investigations are botulism and salmonella. These test results will not be completed until the end of the week." In regards to the decapitated Swans, Bowen Police are following up a number of leads in respect to a Ute that was seen at the location the evening before. Apart from that the theory is that a Fox may have removed the heads. During this period the Bowen Shire Council and DPI&F kept me informed. As a member of the public I feel a great deal reassured after experiencing the implementation of the Avian influenza protocol. Congratulations to all involved for the professional and efficient action taken to investigate the bird deaths at Bowen.

Jon Wren

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