Wildlife rescuers have found themselves ‘in tears’ when being asked to deal with scores of dead or dying birds as avian flu hits the south coast.
The government confirmed yesterday that three gulls found dead at Brighton Marina earlier this month died of avian flu – but it’s believed many more have succumbed in the last few weeks.
And it’s possible another deadly virus is also circulating, as some dead gulls which have been examined by the Animal Plant Health Agency (APHA) did not have avian flu.
The seagull in the video above was found in a garden in Poet’s Corner yesterday, clearly in distress, unable to fly off and apparently having fallen in its own mess.
Trevor Weeks from East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service (WRAS) said the situation was now at crisis point.
He said: “The situation is at crisis point in East Sussex now and birds are suffering as a result as people struggle to get help for casualties. People are giving up trying to get help for abandoned, sick, injured and orphaned gulls because it is becoming so hard to get help.
“WRAS staff and volunteers have been in tears over this. We can hear the frustration in those calling us and we understand why a small number of callers shout down the phone at us, are rude and aggressive at times, despite us all being just as frustrated with the situation and working so passionately hard to do all we can.
“We hate the fact that so many birds are having to be euthanized at the moment.”
RSPCA Mallydams in Hastings closed to new admissions this week because of avian flu and Bird Aid in Hailsham is only admitting a reduced number of gulls.
Rogers Wildlife Rescue in Woodingdean permanently closed earlier this year, which has led to East Sussex WRAS taking in three times as many casualties from Brighton and Hove as before.
Mr Weeks said some vet practices are refusing to euthanize birds because it has to be done outside – despite the Royal College of Vets saying first aid and pain relief should not be unreasonably refused.
He said: “Although we appreciate that some practices do not have suitable locations to euthanize casualties outside their buildings especially if that would mean doing so on the pavement in front passing shopper, they could at least recommend another practice which could.
“There are many which do have suitable side or rear access and could be helping to at least stop the suffering of some of these birds. Which are otherwise being left to a horrible death as a result of being turned away.
“East Sussex WRAS has over 225 casualties in care at the moment and annually we deal with around 5000 casualties, we are caught between a rock and a hard place as if we bring avian flu into our centre the rest of the birds and potentially even the mammals will get euthanized.
“At the same time we don’t want the birds in the wild suffering. This is a no win situation.”
A spokesman for Brighton & Hove City Council said: “We are keeping a close eye on the avian flu outbreak and working with agencies across Kent, Surrey and Sussex to manage the situation. We are aware of tests being conducted by APHA.”
East Sussex WRAS is fundraising to build a new animal hospital in East Sussex. You can donate online here, or post donations to East Sussex WRAS, PO Box 2148, Seaford, BN25 9DE payable to East Sussex. WRAS.
The public is being urged not to touch any dead or sick birds and to report them to to Defra or APHA on 03459 33 55 77.
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