Horse Flu Prompts Biosecurity at Australian Zoo

Newsdate: Mon, 9 May 2011 - 12:02 pm
Location: MELBOURNE, Australia

Zoos across Australia have banned movement of all equine species while the horse flu outbreak persists, a Victorian zoo spokesperson said.

Werribee Open Range Zoo spokeswoman Leah Grinter said zoos had taken steps including taking some species off public display and cancelling some tours, to ensure their equine creatures were protected from the flu bug.

Species at risk of the virus at Werribee Open Range Zoo are the zebra, the Mongolian wild horse, the donkey and the southern white rhinoceros, which can be infected even though it's not an equine species, Ms Grinter said.

Immediately on finding out about the horse flu outbreak on the weekend, Ms Grinter said the zoo had put in place "biosecurity measures" to protect its animals.

This included taking donkeys off public display, cancelling its behind-the-scenes rhinoceros tours and restricting display of the rhinos, Mongolian wild horses and zebras to the safari tours, in which patrons are enclosed in a bus 10 metres away from the animals.

Staff also are required to restrict their contact with horses outside the zoo grounds and change into their uniforms only after arriving at work, to ensure their clothes do not carry the bug.

"All transfers of equine species between zoos in Australia have been halted as well," Ms Grinter said.

"As a safety precaution all the zoos have agreed that no equine transfers will take place while the flu is floating around."

She said the measures were likely to stay in place as long as there were flu-affected horses in Australia and that she was "quite confident" they would effectively protect the zoo's at-risk species.

The need to protect their animals had come as a surprise.

"It's unusual for the entire industry obviously, I don't think anyone would have predicted that this would have occurred and it's obviously devastated the racing industry and I think Victoria is very lucky no horses have yet been infected here," Ms Grinter said.

"It came as a surprise to everyone and we're just making sure none of our animals are affected by putting in place the measures we

About the Author

Flossie Sellers

As an animal lover since childhood, Flossie was delighted when Mark, the CEO and developer of EquiMed asked her to join his team of contributors.

She enrolled in My Horse University at Michigan State and completed a number of courses in everything related to horse health, nutrition, diseases and conditions, medications, hoof and dental care, barn safety, and first aid.

Staying  up-to-date on the latest developments in horse care and equine health is now a habit, and she enjoys sharing a wealth of information with horse owners everywhere..