Bird flu could spell extinction for Black Swan in Australia


Scientists claim that Black Swan could be driven to extinction in its native Australia if an outbreak of bird flu were to reach the country.

The last year has seen significant outbreaks in Europe, Asia and the Americas. A new study from the University of Queensland has shown that such an event in Australia would put the survival of Black Swan in a "highly precarious situation".

It is the lack of survival immunity in the genome of the species that makes Black Swan especially susceptible to the disease. Kirsty Short, associate professor at University of Queensland's School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, said: "Unlike Mallard, for example, Black Swans are extremely sensitive to highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) which is often referred to as bird flu – and can die from it within three days.

"Our data suggest that the immune system of Black Swan is such that, should any avian viral infection become established in its native habitat, their survival would be in peril."

Scientists believe Australia's Black Swan population could be in peril if bird flu reaches the country (Neil Loverock).

Black Swan breeds in south-west and south-east Australia, but non-native populations are established in New Zealand, Europe, United States, China and Japan.

Professor Short said: "The risk to one of Australia's most unique and beautiful birds is very real, and we need to be prepared if we hope to protect it."