Philippine Eagle Center to close for a day for simulation activity in case of bird flu outbreak

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 April) — The Philippine Eagle Center (PEC) will close for a day on Monday, April 11, for a simulation activity to prepare its personnel for a possible lockdown in case the Avian Influenza (AI) H5N1 or bird flu is detected in Davao City.

Andi Baldonado, development project manager of the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF), told MindaNews on Saturday that the one-day drill is intended to test the protocols of the center in the event of an outbreak that may necessitate its temporary closure.

The drill will have as participants the Center’s bird keepers, food stock technicians, and maintenance personnel to effectively handle a situation during a lockdown “for the safety of our national bird, endemic raptors, and other animals housed at the PEC.”

Visitors line up to pay the entrance fee to the Philippine Eagle Center in Calinan district in Davao City in this photo taken before the COVID-19 pandemic. MindaNews photo by BONG SARMIENTO

“The keepers will be assigned to specific areas within the facility. They will attend to the eagles and animals only in those areas. The movement of the staff is restricted within the PEC,” she said.

The PEF announced, in its social media account on Saturday, that a lockdown will severely affect the operation of the center but added it cannot risk the safety of the endemic wildlife, many of them rescued, that are either taking shelter or being rehabilitated at the center.

It said the drill will allow them to respond “at a moment’s notice as soon as there is a detected case of Avian flu in Davao City.”

“In the event that the Avian Flu is detected in Davao City, the Philippine Eagle Center will again have to close its gates and resort to lockdown and quarantine,” the foundation said

It added that a lockdown is a necessary biosecurity measure to protect all Philippine Eagles and other raptors in the facility from being wiped out by the disease.

The center will reopen on April 12.

A Philippine Eagle feeds on a rabbit at the Philippine Eagle Center in Davao City. MindaNews file photo by RUBY THURSDAY MORE

“The PEC is home to 5% of the global population of this already critically endangered bird,” it said.

Dr. Cerelyn Pinili, head of the City Veterinary Office, said during an interview over Davao City Disaster Radio on Friday that the local government is doing all it can to protect the city and to keep its bird-flu free status after the recent detection of Avian Influenza in neighboring Magsaysay town in Davao del Sur, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat.

She said the local government has set up 13 veterinary checkpoints, assisted by Task Force Davao and Davao City Police Office to enhance its border control and monitor entry of live poultry and poultry products.

“They are 24/7 to check the entry of live poultry or poultry products if they have the documents,” she said.

She said the city is classified under “stage 1,” which means it remains free from Avian Flu. Under this stage, she said the local government undertakes preventive measures, including a consistent surveillance of the commercial and backyard poultry farms.

She said that the local government is trying to prevent the entry of the infection to protect local raisers and the consumers since the “bird flu,” a zoonotic disease, could be transmitted to humans who may suffer from “mild” respiratory symptoms such as cough, flu, and fatigue.

“For as long as you cook it well, you will not get the infection,” she said.

She said the local government is consistently taking samples from local growers to see if farms remain free from infection.

She added that results of the 60 samples taken from a farm, where 10 out of the 300 ducks died recently, tested negative for bird flu.

She said another possible source of bird flu are the migratory birds, asking the locals to keep their distance from these birds to avoid spreading the infection.

She said migratory birds have been sighted in the Bucana area. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)