Arabian Gulf braces for migrating birds :: Salt Lake Tribune
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - As migrating waterfowl begin winging their way toward the warmth of the Middle East, this Persian Gulf nation - with a coastline and wetlands that host millions of wintering birds - is bracing for the arrival of ducks and geese carrying the dreaded bird flu virus.
''We can't sleep, I'm telling you,'' Majid Al Mansouri, who heads the country's bird flu campaign, said Thursday.
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The Emirates government has enlisted a special weapon: the legions of bird watchers on the lookout for the 300 species and 2 million migrating birds that spend time in the region.
''We're keeping an eye on the birds coming in so we can report on any that are sick and dying,'' said Peter Hellyer, a bird enthusiast with the Emirates Bird Records Committee.
Government inspectors have fanned out to check poultry farms, halt sale of live chickens and force people who own a few chickens or ducks to slaughter and eat them now or hand them over for destruction.
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In the Emirates, there is already cause for concern. Earlier this week, five rare Socotra Cormorants were found dead on the coast of the northern Ras al-Khaimah emirate. And Thursday the corpse of a honey buzzard turned up in Abu Dhabi. All appeared to have died of natural causes, Al Mansouri and Hellyer said.
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Al Mansouri's Environmental Agency of Abu Dhabi has identified about a dozen potential hotspots in the Emirates where people, migratory birds and domestic birds, such as chickens, live in close contact.