Bird flu infects penguins at famous wildlife haven

Bird flu has been confirmed in 10 penguins on South Georgia, one of the world’s great wildlife havens.

Avian influenza had already infected other seabirds and mammals on the British Overseas Territory, but scientists report gentoo and king penguins have now fallen victim, too.

The breeding season is closing on the sub-Antarctic island so the immediate impacts are likely to be limited.

But there’ll be concern for next season when wildlife gathers again en masse.

The beaches on South Georgia are famous for their spectacular aggregations – a million-plus individuals all jostling together to court, mate and bring up their young.

“I liken South Georgia to the Alps with Serengeti-style wildlife around it. The wildlife concentrations around the coast are just phenomenal – multiple species of penguins, albatrosses, and seals,” explained Dr Norman Ratcliffe, a bird ecologist from the British Antarctic Survey.

“If bird flu were to take a hold and cause very high mortality across the island, it would be of conservation concern globally. But at the moment, it does seem to be somewhat limited in the way it’s spreading,” he told BBC News.

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