South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Rural Affairs Spokesperson Colin Smyth has raised his concerns about the impact of avian flu on the region’s wild birds, after dozens of reports of dead and dying wild birds across Dumfries and Galloway.
Experts have said that avian flu is causing huge numbers of wild bird deaths, especially among the migrating geese which winter along the Solway Coast.
A number of cases have been found among domestic birds resulting in flocks being culled.
Colin Smyth said: “We are seeing a growing number of avian flu outbreaks among domestic flocks and poultry farms in our region and this continues to be a real problem. My thoughts are always with the owners whose flocks are being culled.
“However, the appalling impact on wild birds appears to have been forgotten. The Scottish Government keep referring to the number of cases as just a couple but that is only on farms. This utterly ignores the scale of the problem in wild birds, especially among wild geese. Our region is famous for the geese which migrate here each winter and hundreds, if not thousands, of these birds and others are dying because of bird flu.
“While there are now 3km protection zones and 10km surveillance zones around the farm sites where there have been identified cases of bird flu, no such protections or surveillance exists where wild birds have died. The Government should be considering whether to limit access to sites in high risks areas where wildfowl and people mix as well as limits on wildfowling where there have been a significant number of cases.
“Avian flu in the wild bird population also has a relevance to humans and I would urge walkers, and especially those walking dogs, to be particularly vigilant while out and about.
“While we’ve been told the threat to human health is low, people must not touch dead birds and if they see any dead or dying birds while out and about, they must report them straight away by calling Defra’s helpline on 03459 33 55 77 (please select option 7).”