Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary to remain closed for up to 5 months due to deadly bird flu

Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 5:05 PM EDT
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LOCUST GROVE, Ga. (CBS46) - More than 100 birds are dead after being euthanized due to a bird flu outbreak in Henry County.

Georgia health officials say the facility that housed the birds will remain under quarantine for the next several months.

A makeshift memorial sits just outside the gates of Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary.

The commissioner of the Georgia Department of Agriculture says the sprawling animal haven and educational destination for school children will remain closed to the public for up to five months as crews from several state and federal agencies work to contain an outbreak of bird flu at the facility.

“The disease has particularly affected waterfowl and scavenging species such as vultures and bald eagles,” said Gary Black, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

The facility in Locust Grove shut down on August 13 when staff noticed several dead wild vultures on the property.

To contain the spread of bird flu or Avian Influenza HPAI, crews from the Georgia Department of Agriculture, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the USDA made the tough decision to humanely euthanize more than 100 bird species at the facility including - peacocks, emus, ostrich, chickens, turkeys, and geese.

“Our response unfortunately but necessarily involves depopulation of birds and are classified as poultry under Georgia law,” said Dr. Janemarie Hennebelle, Georgia state veterinarian.

“It is clear that HPAI could have a devastating impact on not just our poultry producers but all those involved in the industry and certainly the entire economy of Georgia if it is left unchecked,” said Black.

Georgia’s poultry industry brings in upwards of $26 billion dollars yearly. It is the state’s number one industry.

“The impact of HPAI and the importance of controlling it in Georgia has enormous implications for trade all over the globe,” said Black.

As the state implements quarantine measures at Noah’s Ark, officials are urging Georgia poultry farmers to closely monitor their flocks. The Department of Agriculture is also reminding the public that there is very little risk to people and our pets.

Noah’s Ark issued a new statement to CBS46 saying that while they are heartbroken by the loss, they understand the state’s overall necessity is to protect the much larger bird populations on their property and throughout the state.

“As we remain under a strict quarantine, we will remain closed to the public during the response,” Noah’s Ark said in a statement. “We appreciate the timely and professional response of our officials. Noah’s Ark is committed to the safety and health of its people, animals, and community. We are diligently looking for quick resolutions and will continue to provide updates as they evolve.”