update (22 September 2022): According to Daily Maverick's "Our Burning Planet", as of 20 September 2022 more than 10 penguins have already died from the disease.
South African National Parks (SANParks) has announced an outbreak of the high pathogenicity avian influenza (bird flu) in the Boulders Penguin Colony in the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) in Cape Town. The Western Cape Veterinary Services and the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) have confirmed that four new bird flu cases and seven suspected cases of bird flu have been detected. There a currently an estimated 3000 penguins in the breeding colony, so the affected numbers are still very low at this stage. SANParks, Western Cape Veterinary Services, City of Cape Town, SANCCOB and other seabird rehabilitation centres, are closely monitoring the situation and will assess the need for further action.
SANParks and its conservation partners are taking precautions to reduce the spread of the virus. This includes limiting access to the Boulders Penguin Colony, including researchers, and applying strict disinfection of footwear when staff leave the colony. Dead and sick birds will be removed and transferred to SANCCOB for assessment and possible testing.
SANParks decided that closing the Boulders Penguin Colony to visitors is not justified at this stage, but visitors must stay on designated boardwalks. SANParks is requesting visitors to look out for any suspected bird flu cases by reporting sick and/or dead birds to Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) park management on 021 786 2329/021 780 9100 or SANCCOB 021 557 6155.
Birds affected with bird flu are weak and may look tame, cannot fly, show signs of tremors or twitches and seizures or loss of balance, and one or both eyes may be droopy or cloudy. Please do not approach, touch or handle the birds. Visitors should shower, change and clean their shoes and clothes before visiting other seabird colonies or poultry farms to prevent contamination from one site to another.
Avian influenza virus is spread between birds by faeces and other body excretions and by people handling sick birds. Even though the virus is unlikely to infect humans, precautions should be taken. Gloves and masks should be worn if handling birds. Any equipment, including vehicles and protective clothing that could be contaminated, should be disinfected.