Fri, Jan 03, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Visiting experts list possible causes of spoonbill deaths

By Chiu Yu-Tzu  /  STAFF REPORTER WITH AGENCIES

Ducks or sludge in the Chiku Lagoon could be the source of botulism killing endangered black-faced spoonbills in Tainan County, Jap-anese experts investigating the bird deaths said yesterday.

Dead spoonbills were found beginning Dec. 9. As of yesterday, 68 spoonbills had died after being infected with C. botulinum toxin.

Shunji Kozaki, a veterinary professor of Osaka Prefecture University, and Masato Takeda, who has dealt with recent botulism cases in birds in Japan, arrived in Taiwan on Monday to help the Council of Agriculture (COA) manage the crisis.

After carrying out a two-day field investigation at Chiku Lagoon, the bird's wintering site, the visiting experts, speaking at the Tainan County Livestock Disease Control Center yesterday, offered possible reasons for the botulism outbreak.

"Ducks from somewhere else, contaminated sludge or high temperatures could be what triggered the botulism outbreak," Takeda said.

Takeda suggested the local government sanitize the lagoon regularly and remove contaminated sludge as soon as possible.

After meeting with the Japanese experts, officials at the center said they would launch a project aimed at monitoring the environment of the bird's wintering site soon.

According to officials, the project would include an analysis of physical properties of the environment, a study of the species, an ecological survey on wild birds and pathogeny, and immunological control of botulism.

The project will be sent to the COA for approval within five weeks, officials said.

Experts involved in the project would hail from diverse universities, including National Cheng Kung University, National Taiwan Normal University and National Pingtung University of Science and Technology.

Takeda said that the spread of botulism in birds was seen in several places in Japan, including Tokyo, Hokkaido and Miyazaki Prefecture.

Kozaki and Takeda will return to Japan on Monday and the results of their sludge analysis will be sent to Taiwan as soon as possible. They did not rule out the possibility of revisiting the lagoon for further study.

Meanwhile, some legislators have been consulting experts from the US in an effort to speed up the investigation into the deaths.

Yang Jiao-yen (楊嬌豔), assistant to DPP Legislator Eugene Jao (趙永清), said yesterday that the legislature's involvement reflects the slowness of the COA when it comes to crisis management.

"The situation could be more complex because some experts suspect that inappropriate feed was used at fish farms near the lagoon, leading to eutrophication," Yang said.

Experts suspect that the combination of high temperatures and eutrophication resulted in the spread of the C. botulinum toxin, Yang said.

Some fishermen in the area have reportedly changed their feed to young fish this year.

In addition, Yang said, young fish purchased from China should be examined.

Ten black-faced spoonbills are receiving medical treatment at the center.

In addition, experts at the Nantou-based Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute are looking after two sick spoonbills, which are in a stable condition.

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