Response to the avian flu outbreak in Senegal and Mauritania
At the end of January 2021, 750 great white pelicans were found dead in the Djoudj bird sanctuary, a remote wetland pocket and UNESCO World Heritage Site in northern Senegal, which provide a resting place for millions of migratory birds every year. This was followed by the death of 1642 pelican chicks and two dozen adult pelicans in Diawling National Park in Mauritania on the border with northern Senegal, where over 250 species of birds live. According to the national authorities, these deaths were attributed to the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak.
After the outbreak, the national governments of Senegal and Mauritania are coordinating an emergency response. Nature Mauretania (BirdLife Partner) and the cooperating organization in Senegal Nature Communautés Développement (NCD) are at the forefront of this response. Nature Mauretania is raising awareness of HPAI in the communities in Diawling and leading a monitoring committee in Banc d’Arguin to monitor every outbreak of the disease. NCD in Senegal has activated its network of members and volunteers to monitor and report bird deaths across the country. While no further HPAI outbreak has been reported in either country, epidemiological surveillance is being carried out in other locations, including parks and reserves. Cooperation and the exchange of information between the two countries will be intensified.
Great white pelican, copyright Fran Trabalon, from the Surfbirds Galleries
More importantly, an HPAI Action Plan has been developed in Senegal, the focus of which is now on its implementation. Three epidemiology, surveillance and biosecurity sub-committees have been set up. Meetings are currently taking place with donors and technical partners to fund this action plan. In addition, epidemiological surveillance of wild and domestic birds and active surveillance in marketplaces and ornithological sites will continue. Capacity building will also be undertaken to ensure an effective response. The Senegalese coordination team is currently being trained in incident management systems.
The great white pelican is a migratory bird with a wide distribution in Africa. Monitoring the key sites used by the species in West Africa is key to preventing the HPAI from spreading. Cross-border collaboration and community involvement is essential to this response, ”stated Djibril Diallo, Executive Director of Nature Mauretania.
There are also cross-border meetings between authorities in Senegal and Mauritania to ensure coordination between the two countries. BirdLife International and its partners will continue to support national authorities in Mauritania and Senegal in the implementation of the HPAI Action Plan and improve surveillance to prevent future outbreaks.