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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Bird flu: Swans and geese found dead in London canals amid major avian flu outbreak

A number of swans and geese have been found dead in waterways in central London amid the “worst bird flu outbreak in UK history’”.

The birds - which are thought to have died as a result of the virus - have been discovered floating in the Grand Union and Regents canals near Little Venice.

Ben Perkins, who helps run river tours for London Bus Company, says he is spotting the dead animals floating during every trip he takes.

“All up the canals heading north from Camden there are just loads of dead birds everywhere,” he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

“Usually you see the occasional dead bird every few months but we have seen 10 or 12 in the last few weeks. If you came with us on a day trip you may see three or four dead birds and carcasses in the water.

(Ben Perkins)

“It’s terrible for us - we are seeing dead carcasses all the time. It’s really unusual for us to see this.

“We often feed the birds. They’re like family to us.”

The boat worker has now reached out to Westminster City Council as well as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Canal & River Trust to try and establish what is happening to the birds.

Similar incidents have also been reported in other areas of the country.

Eighteen swans, a heron and two black-headed gulls have been found dead in a Suffolk river. Sudbury Common Lands Charity said it suspected bird flu and that Defra had been told.

A number of dead swans have been also been spotted in Grantham Canal in Lincolnshire this week and avian flu has been cited as a possible cause.

Replying to a tweet sent by the London Waterbus company about the dead birds in Little Venice, the Canal & River Trust London & South East said: “Our local team of Operatives are aware of the issue - unfortunately this is a national issue and we are working with other agencies to find a way to get this under control.”

The Animal and Plant Health Agency highlighted “the biggest ever outbreak of bird flu in Great Britain”.

Detections of the bird flu at 155 UK sites has led to more than three million birds being culled with avian influenza prevention zones introduced in Norfolk, Suffolk, parts of Essex and the whole of the south west.

The major outbreak is threatening to put supplies of Christmas turkey sales at risk, the National Farmers Union has warned.

Westminster City Council and The Canal & River Trust have been contacted for further comment about the dead birds discovered in London’s waterways.

Additional reporting by Jacob Phillips, Local Democracy Reporter

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