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PBFD Outbreak in Cape Parrot Population

Half the sample population shows signs of infection, conservationists say.

Posted: Friday, June 11, 2010, 3 p.m. PDT

This wild Cape parrot is at risk of contracting the dangerous virus 
Photo courtesy of Steve Boyes
Wild cape parrot have recently been stricken with PBFD.

Dr. Steve Boyes of the Cape Parrot Project and Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. University of Cape Town, is asking for help and avian expertise regarding an outbreak of Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease in the wild population of Cape parrots.

“Since getting our permits and ethical clearance, we have caught several wild Cape parrots in a pecan orchard using mist-nets,” said Boyes Blood spots, feather samples, body measurements, weights, and photographs were taken for each Cape parrot before release back to the circling flock, with the minimum of stress. Surgical spirits, viruscides, latex gloves, and a ‘use once’ policy for all supplies, e.g. pillowcases and gloves, was used to avoid healthy parrots getting infected. We urgently sent these samples to the University of Cape Town for PCR tests to confirm the incidence of [PBFD] infection in this wild population.”

According to Boyes, 50 percent of the samples tested positive for PBFD and 25 percent are suspected to be positive negatives. “We still don’t know a lot about this virus and its activity in the population,” said Boyes. “We will be doing DNA work on the virus to establish whether it is endemic to the wild population or a new, possibly more virulent genotype of the disease that has entered the wild population. We are also gathering samples of new exotic food resources that have entered their diet, e.g. pecans, plums, apples, cherries, acorns, etc., to test their nutritional content, and look for compounds, deficiencies and/or toxins that may be harmful to Cape parrots, if their diet consists exclusively or predominantly of this food resource.”

Boyes is concerned about the long-term survival of a species already on the brink of collapse, and is calling for more awareness to be brought to the Cape parrot. For more information, go to www.africaskyblue.org.

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