Sunday, January 28, 2007

To Fight The Spread Of Bird Flu, Indonesia Calls In The Army

Archipelago Remains "On Highest Alert"

Even Pet Birds Will Be Confiscated And Destroyed In Massive Indonesian Bird Cull

Indonesia remains the world's 'hot spot' for human infections of the H5N1 virus. The archipelago in under increasing pressure from the United Nations and the World Health Organisation to to stick to the agreed, and extremely wide, parameters of the current mass bird culls.

The program of pet bird registrations may prove very difficult to enforce. What happens when families claim that chicken or fowls roaming loose in yards are actually children's' pets?

The removal of poultry birds from the yards of family homes will signal something of a titanic cultural shift for many Indonesians. More than 30 million families are now believed to keep poultry birds in the yards of their homes, or running loose in surrounding farms and neighbourhoods. Millions more exotic birds are kept as pets, where great pride is taken by their owners in the quality and uniqueness of their 'songs'.

That the Indonesian government has now brought in the army to help with the mass bird culls signals the enormity of the problems facing Indonesia in its battle against the spread of bird flu, and reveals the levels of aggression already faced by inspectors who try to remove possibly infected, or exposed, poultry birds from people who simply do not believe the bird flu virus is real, or real enough to be a threat worthy of giving up a vital part of their food supply.

From the Washington Post (excerpts) :

Indonesia called on the military on Friday to help fight bird flu, a day after a young girl became the country's sixth victim this month.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered the military chief to deploy soldiers to help fight the disease, Cabinet Secretary Sudi Silalahi told reporters.

"He called on governors, regents, mayors to be more active in leading efforts to fight bird flu in affected areas," Silalahi said after ministers held talks with Yudhoyono.

The sense of alarm was highlighted by the country's welfare minister earlier in the day.

"Even though our continued effort is giving some significant progress, we are still on highest alert," Aburizal Bakrie, said at a ceremony to receive 100,000 sets of protective equipment donated by the United States.

Indonesia has the highest bird flu death toll and is stepping up efforts to stamp out the disease after a flare up in cases this year.

"Indonesia is very serious in addressing this threat," Bakrie said a day after a six year-old girl died, becoming Indonesia's 63rd victim of the disease that has killed 164 people globally since 2003.

He said the government had succeeded in containing human infections in nine of the 30 high-risk provinces.

The disease, however, remains endemic in fowl in some of the most densely populated parts of Indonesia, including Java.

Bird lovers in Jakarta have been scrambling to get certificates declaring their birds are healthy. Without it, their pets will be confiscated and destroyed.

Among those trying for the life-saving certificates is Sutan Zahar, whose prized parrot welcomes visitors with the traditional Muslim greeting of "Salam-u-alaykum," Arabic for "Peace be with you.

"People have offered big money for my birds but I refused to sell them. They are precious," Zahar told Reuters as he bought food for his pets at Pramuka bird market in East Jakarta.

Millions Of Exotic Birds Kept As Pets In Indonesia - Registration Certificates Refused For Birds Kept In Dirty Cages, Unclean Conditions

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