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Israel parks authority says 1 in 5 wild cranes infected with bird flu

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

The carcass of a crane, infected by avian flu, at the Hula Valley Nature Reserve in northern Israel, on December 23, 2021. (Shlomit Shavit, Israel Nature and Parks Authority)
The carcass of a crane, infected by avian flu, at the Hula Valley Nature Reserve in northern Israel, on December 23, 2021. (Shlomit Shavit, Israel Nature and Parks Authority)

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority announces that one in five wild cranes living or migrating through Israel have been infected with bird flu, with authorities expecting to remove 25 to 30 tons of carcasses.

Around 100,000 cranes visit the Hula Valley in northern Israel annually. Some 40,000 stay in the country until early March, when they fly north to Europe and Asia to nest.

After touring the valley, the INPA’s temporary director, Raya Shourky, says inspectors are checking the whole Hula Valley for evidence of the virus. They are also widening their search to water bodies in the Jezreel and Zevulun valleys, the Valley of Springs and the Carmel Coast.

The greatest harm seems to be in the Hula Valley Reserve, she says, noting the concentration of cranes there, and and regular feeding is stopping them from moving elsewhere.

The H5N1 strain of influenza, which can also affect humans, was first discovered several days ago at Moshav Margaliot on the Lebanese border, where the Agriculture Ministry has sealed off 60 coops that accommodate 244,000 laying hens.

The virus has also been identified at a farm on Moshav Neot Hagolan, also in northern Israel, where 17,000 turkeys are being raised in five coops.

The Agriculture Ministry is investigating a Moshav Margaliot farmer on suspicion that he tried to smuggle eggs out and sell them.

The ministry calls on consumers to buy eggs from reputable sources, check for stamps by inspectors and only eat eggs and poultry meat that have been thoroughly cooked.

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