Archive: Detroit Zoo Moves Birds Indoors due to Avian Influenza Concerns

February 25, 2022

ROYAL OAK, Mich., 

The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) is being proactive to protect birds at the Detroit Zoo from a highly contagious and deadly virus.

Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) confirmed the presence of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in the state, after the virus was identified in a non-commercial flock of birds in Kalamazoo County. Similar infections have been reported across the United States in recent weeks.

Avian influenza can be spread in various ways from flock to flock, including by wild birds, through contact with infected poultry, by equipment and on caretakers’ clothing.

While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have determined the recent detections of HPAI do not present an immediate public health concern, the USDA and MDARD urged those involved in the care for or production of poultry to review and increase their biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of illness among birds.

In response, DZS animal care staff is in the process of moving the majority of birds indoors, where they will remain as long as necessary to ensure their health and safety.

“This is an important preventative measure,” said Dr. Ann Duncan, director of animal health for the DZS. “By bringing these animals indoors, we can more closely monitor them and prevent contact with wild birds who may be carriers of HPAI.”

As a result of this move, many beloved birds will be out of public view, including the flamingos, ostrich, cassowary, sandhill cranes, all birds housed in the Matilda R. Wilson Free-Flight Aviary and peafowl who roam the Zoo. The Polk Penguin Conservation Center will remain open and accessible to the public, because it has separate air handling systems for birds and Zoo visitors.

DZS officials acknowledge guests will feel the birds’ absence when visiting the Zoo but want to emphasize the importance of putting the animals’ health and wellbeing first.

“The animals and their needs are always our top priority,” said Dr. Hayley Murphy, executive director and CEO for the DZS. “We understand some guests may be disappointed they are unable to view the birds at this time, but we are pleased to still be able to offer dozens of world-class attractions, including our award-winning Polk Penguin Conservation Center. Despite this temporary change, we hope to see you at the Zoo. It is only with your support that we can fulfill our mission of protecting and preserving the lives of the animals in our care.”