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PIA Press Release

DENR monitors birds in wetland areas to keep Bicol bird flu-free

by AM Contreras

Legazpi City (28 February) -- The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has continuously monitored wetland areas in the Bicol region as part of the government efforts to keep the Philippine bird-flu free.

In a report to DENR regional executive director Joselin Marcus Fragada, Regional Technical Director Felix Mendoza of the Protected Areas, Wildlife and Coastal Zone Management Service (PAWCZMS), said 20 wetland areas in Bicol were monitored as of December 2008.

"The areas are Cabusao Wetland Area, Lake Bato, Lake Buhi, Lake Baao, Belen, Calabanga and Purong, Magarao in Camarines Sur;Manguisoc Wetland Area and Mambalita Wetland Area in Camarines Norte; Wetland areas in Buga, Libon, Oas and Polangui in Albay; Malawmanwan Island; Prieto Diaz Wetland area and Pilar Egret Bowl in Sorsogon; and Panganiban and Agoho Point in San Andres, Catanduanes and Chico Wildlife Sanctuary, Nano Wildlife Sanctuary and Formosa Mangrove Forest Reserve in Masbate," Mendoza said.

He said that among the vital information gathered during the monitoring activities were the species of water birds visiting the wetland areas, a head count of their population, the time or period of the year the wildbirds visit the wetland sites, and observation of unusual behavior of migratory birds, such as largescale and unexplained death.

Mendoza also reported that an Asian Waterbird census was conducted first half of January last year in selected wetland areas in the region. The said census is an annual activity conducted by DENR, together with some conservation non-government organizations.

A regional, provincial and municipal avian influenza task force were organized in the regions. The Regional Avian Influenza Task Force is headed by the Director of the Department of Agriculture (DA), with DENR, Department of Health (DOH), Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of Education (DepEd), and the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) as members. The Provincial Avian Influenza Task Force is chaired by the provincial governor, while the municipal mayor heads the Municipal Al Task Force.

The concerned support services assists the LGU officials in the various activities of Al Task Forces such as information dissemination, surveillance, and the procedure to follow in case of a bird-flu outbreak.

As per information, the Avian flu or bird flu (H5N1) is a very contagious disease caused by viruses that normally infect only birds. But the virus has since mutated and is now causing infections or even death to poultry and human.

Ever since chickens started dying in Asia in 2003, the outbreak has become the most severe ever seen. Over 100 million chickens have died or been culled in 13 countries. No longer confined to poultry, the virus is appearing in ducks and other migratory birds that have flown on their usual flight paths from Asia through Russia to Europe, or from Asia over Alaska and into Canada and America.

The H5N1 that has killed so much poultry in Asia has also killed people in Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia. Thailand and China, who've close contact with chickens and roosters about 142 people have become clinically ill with avian influenza, and 74 have died.

The Philippines remains bird flue-free. But this should not make us complacent, the concerned authorities say, as everyone is asked to cooperate in the campaign against the bird flu. (DENR/PIA) [top]

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