Thu, May 09, 2013 - Page 4 News List

Bird lovers not deterred by China virus outbreaks

Staff writer, with CNA

The nation’s bird lovers seem undeterred by the recent outbreak of the H7N9 avian flu virus in China, keeping birds as pets or tracking them in the wild with the same gusto as before cases of the disease were reported in humans.

Business has remained stable since the virus was reported to be spreading in China, said Kuo Feng-ming, head of a business association that oversees pet bird trading in Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華).

“Only people who don’t know about birds have doubts,” said Kuo, who represents more than 20 pet bird stores clustered on a section of Heping W Road, known as “bird street,” that is regarded as a mecca for pet bird owners.

The hundred-odd species on the stores’ shelves, including parrots, finches and mynas, remain popular, Kuo said, adding that customer visits to his store have held steady at about 100 a day since the news of the virus’ outbreak broke.

Kuo, in business for 15 years, said it was common for birds to get the flu in the spring, but said that based on previous experience, the virus has never been a big problem for the animals.

Acknowledging that fewer tourists have visited the street in the past month, Kuo stressed that all pet birds kept by the stores have passed monthly tests by Taipei City’s Animal Protection Office.

The Taipei-based Chinese Wild Bird Federation, which concluded its annual marathon bird-watching race last month, said recently that the outbreak in China will not affect future events.

“There is no need to panic about bird-watching since we keep a considerable distance from the birds,” federation director Chen Te-chih (陳德治) said, adding that the association has been working with the Centers for Disease Control to promote proper practices.

Participants have been advised not to touch dead birds and to report any mass deaths of birds, Chen said.

Instead of developing ornithophobia, the public should pay more attention to the characteristics of the disease to protect themselves, Chen added.

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