JERUSALEM – An outbreak of bird flu in northern Israel has killed at least 5,200 migrating cranes and forced farmers to slaughter hundreds of thousands of chickens as authorities try to contain what they say is the world’s animal disaster deadliest in the country’s history.
Uri Naveh, senior researcher at the Israel Parks and Nature Authority, said the situation was not yet under control.
“A lot of birds have died in the middle of the water, so it’s hard to get them out. He said on Monday.
Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg called the crisis “the most serious damage to wildlife in the country’s history.”
“The extent of the damage is still unclear,” she tweeted.
Yaron Michaeli, spokesperson for Hula Lake Park, where the crane population is concentrated, said workers were removing the carcasses as quickly as possible, fearing they could infect other wildlife.
Agriculture ministry spokesperson Dafna Yurista said half a million chickens in the region were being culled to prevent the spread of the disease.
About 500,000 cranes pass through Israel each year on their way to Africa and a small number stay behind, Michaeli said. This year, around 30,000 cranes remained in Israel for the winter.
Michaeli said the cranes are believed to have been infected by smaller birds that have come into contact with farms suffering from outbreaks.
Israeli media released photos of workers dressed in white hazmat suits picking up crane carcasses after the birds were first found sick about 10 days ago.
Michaeli said the death toll among cranes appears to have leveled off in recent days.
“It’s a good sign,” he said. “They may be starting to get over it. We hope a lot.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said officials from the ministries of agriculture, environment and health were monitoring the situation. There was no immediate information about the infections among the people, he said.
Cleaning is progressing more slowly than expected. “We are trying to see if there are other solutions,” Naveh said.