COAL VALLEY, Ill. — Niabi Zoo staff are taking precautions to keep birds safe from contracting Avian Flu. Zoo director Lee Jackson says Niabi was first alerted of the issue back in February when cases popped up out east.
Since then, they've created plans in place to keep birds safe as the disease got closer. The zoo has more than 100 birds from 21 different species.
"We have waterfowl, we have poultry, we have birds of prey, we have parrots," Jackson explained.
While the birds are on the smaller side of animals under the care of the zoo, Jackson says the responsibility is all the same.
"We are responsible for these animals, keeping them healthy and happy," he said. "It's not worth the risk to leave them in a position where they could get ill."
Most birds were never moved back outside for the start of the upcoming season, despite the brunt of winter behind us. In fact, nearly all bird enclosures are empty right now accept for one.
"It's a pair of Eurasian Eagle Owls. They're in the middle of breeding season right now," Jackson said. "But we've modified their enclosure so that chances of them coming in contact with wild birds is pretty much impossible right now."
The modifications include a tarp all around the outside of the enclosure to cut off access to wild birds.
On top of that, all animal handlers wear PPE while working with the birds. The zoo has also completely cut poultry products out of all animals diets.
"We've taken the added precaution of just stopping all delivery of poultry products that we use in our different diets. Our diets are very varied, and so we can substitute different things to replace those items," Jackson said.
The spread of the disease might change your zoo-going experience, but not by much. Jackson says they hope to reevaluate in May or early June when the migration of birds is considered to be mostly done.
"Some of the birds, like I said, will be moved indoors but still on exhibit, but in places that you normally wouldn't see them," Jackson said. "And a handful of species probably won't be visible for the first visitors that come in."
All wild birds that are found dead on the zoo grounds as well as all birds on exhibit that die are sent to a lab at the University of Illinois for testing. Jackson says it's a way to guarantee the flu has not impacted their birds.