News update:Sep 11, 2006

AI-fighting swans fitted with GPS backpacks

Ten swans will be outfitted with GPS backpacks so their movements can be tracked, providing information on wild bird migration patterns that could help in the fight against AI.

Ten whooper swans were captured in far eastern Mongolia, near the borders of Russia and China, by an international team of scientists in early August as part of a study to shed light on how wild birds may be involved in spreading bird flu. The whooper swans were chosen for the experiment because large numbers of the species have died in Mongolia and western China in the past two years. Tests verified that some of them were infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza.

The plan is to outfit the each of the 8-kg swans with super-light Teflon backpacks (70 g) containing solar-powered GPS satellite transmitters. This is the latest way scientists and researchers are trying to fight the spread of avian influenza. The harnesses are made of Teflon ribbon that deteriorates and falls off within a few years.

An international team of scientists, including scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Mongolian Academy of Sciences and the US Geological Survey, will track the birds' migration routes to glean information to aid in the fight against bird flu.

"Although we are sampling wild birds for avian influenza in the field, we will not be able to fully understand their role in this disease unless we better understand their movements," Wildlife Conservation Society spokesman William Karesh said.

Photo: N. Batbayar, Mongolia WSCC

Editor WorldPoultry

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