700 ring neck pheasants die from botulism

Mr Dermott Devlin with Dr Aziz Chowdhury with a ring neck pheasant.Mr Dermott Devlin with Dr Aziz Chowdhury with a ring neck pheasant.

The deaths of more than 700 ring neck pheasants from botulism, at an Ourimbah property, have prompted a warning from biosecurity experts to report unusual symptoms and behaviour in domestic poultry.

Greater Sydney Local Land Services District Veterinarian, Dr Aziz Chowdhury, said botulism was a rare condition caused by a toxin found in the environment, often spread by wild birds, rotting carcasses or other contaminated material. “It is characterised in poultry by paralysis of the neck and limbs, and generally impacts multiple birds very quickly,” he said. Dr Chowdhury praised the vigilance of the affected landholders, Dermott and Marion Devlin, who reported the deaths immediately.

“The couple reported the sudden mortalities to us immediately, so we were able to carry out the necessary testing and limit the impact on their flock, as well as the risk to neighbouring properties in the area,” he said. Dr Chowdhury encouraged other poultry and stock owners to report unusual signs, symptoms and sudden deaths immediately. “Time is of the essence when it comes to reporting stock sickness, and we are here to help landholders when it comes to protecting their stock, and potentially their land, from the impact of the disease,” he said.

Mr Devlin said they were committed to running a responsible farming operation. “We don’t want to impact on other landholders or our agricultural markets by cutting corners,” he said. “Dr Chowdhury and his team have been extremely professional and helped us understand what we needed to do to reduce the risk to our other animals, our land and our neighbours.”

Botulism is best prevented by removing dead birds daily, removing the source of the toxin, supplying clean feed and water, and preventing wild bird access to the feeder and water, keeping birds away from stagnant or pooled water, and providing feed in containers and not on the ground. Sick birds should be isolated and provided with food and water.

Source: Media release, Apr 30 Nikki McGrath, Local Land Services