20 March 2018

Table Mountain National Park: Bird flu outbreak at Boulders Penguin Colony!

update (12 April 2018): As of 09 April 2018, the deaths of four penguins have been confirmed to be as a result of bird flu and 18 penguin deaths are suspected to be linked to the disease.

Due to an outbreak of bird flu (H5N8 strain) in the penguin colony at Boulders Beach in Cape Town's Table Mountain National Park, South African National Parks (SANParks) has implemented the following precautions:
  • With the exception of visitors on Boulders Beach boardwalk, nobody may access the main breeding colony.
  • In instances where staff need to go off boardwalks to collect injured birds or hats, camera lens, caps etc dropped by visitors they will limit their access to essential work and then sterilise their boots afterwards - gum boots have been issued and are easier to clean than the normal boot.
  • Monitoring routes used for moult/nest counts have been reviewed to ensure that staff and Penguin monitors do not walk through the main breeding colony.
Western Cape Veterinary Services, CapeNature, SANParks, South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs, City of Cape Town, SANCCOB and other seabird rehabilitation centres and private veterinarians are working in close cooperation to monitor the situation and perform further testing. While the virus is highly pathogenic to chickens and other poultry, the impact on wild seabirds is not that well understood (so far 1 tern and 2 penguins from Boulders have come back positive for H5N8). Closing the colony to visitors is not justified at this stage.
Even though the virus is unlikely to infect humans, precautions should nevertheless be taken.

Tips for visitors:

  • Visitors must stay on designated board walks
  • Visitors should change shoes and clothes if visiting other seabird colonies or poultry farms to prevent contamination from one site to another

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