Bird deaths climb

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By: Patrick Yost

The director of the Georgia Zoo and Safari Park has filed more complaints with the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office regarding the death of rare and exotic birds at the zoo’s River Farm Run aviary. Michael Vaden, reports indicate, is blaming the deaths and sickness of the birds to chemicals sprayed on nearby agricultural fields by a crop dusting planes. “We’re likely going to lose everything that’s exposed, which is likely our entire flock,” he said. Vaden, director of the Georgia Zoo and Safari Park which is slated to open its safari function in the spring at the location off Monticello Highway, first filed a complaint on July 24 after, reports state, he alleged that fungicide spread by the plane had come in contact with his aviary and was killing birds. In the July 24 report Vaden said a Yellow Billed Hornbill worth $2,500 was dead and a Lorikeet worth $500 was dead. Since that report, he says, “I’ve almost lost count.” Vaden says more than 20 exotic birds that he had raised and were to be part of exhibitions at the zoo have died. Vaden said the fungicide “Headline” has been applied to his property. Vaden’s neighbor, Morgan County dairy farmer Everett Williams, told him at one point during the crop dusting that he would direct the plane to stay away from Vaden’s property but, Vaden said, the next day the plane flew over the aviary site, frightening the birds and affecting their breeding patterns. “On July 28 he assured me he would not come back. He came back the next day,” he says. Attempts to reach Williams were unsuccessful. Vaden says that University of Georgia research veterinarians have confirmed that the birds have either died from poisoning or from immune deficiency diseases. However, no written report has been produced, a process that Vaden says will take three to four months. He also said he contacted the Georgia Department of Agriculture and that representatives took field samples from soil at the aviary and the samples, Vaden says, tested positive for chemicals. “We don’t use any chemicals whatsoever in our aviary.” Vaden says on Tuesday his flock of Flamingoes is beginning to show signs of damage. He says the losses are emotional. “We’ve hand–raised nearly all of them. Each and everyone of them is like a family member. It’s like someone killing you’re family dog over and over.” He says he is currently hiring legal counsel and “exploring our options from there.” “It’s tragic. It’s been devastating to our breeding program. We suffer and continue to suffer tremendous losses.” “The financial implications are devastating.”

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