Second Wave of Our Appeal to Start in August

Second Wave of Our Appeal to Start in August

Jul 6, 2007

Notes from the Field

By Bonnie Zimmermann, Vice President

First of all we wish to thank every person who responded to our email campaign in May. This August we will be reaching out even further and sending out letters to all our past supporters and friends via a standard mail campaign.

Work is currently in progress to translocate 71 parrots and cockatoos from the Wild Animal Rescue Center in Bali to Kembali Bebas. Here is the likely break-down of the species involved

42 Seram (Salmon-crested) cockatoos
1 Umbrella cockatoo
13 Galerita cockatoos
3 Lesser Sulphur-crested cockatoos
3 Palm cockatoos
1 Goffin’s cockatoo
8 Eclectus parrots

Many of these birds are candidates for release back into the wild. However these additional parrots will increase our census (and costs) BY NEARLY 60%, practically overnight.

Our goal was to raise $50,000 by the end of 2007. Additional caging, food, medical care, staffing and transportation are costly and we still have a long way to go to find the needed funds.

So please put on your thinking caps and let’s find a way to send these gentle spirits back to their forest homes.

We sincerely thank you.


Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease: A Continuing Concern in Captivity and the Wild

by Stewart Metz, MD, Director, Indonesian Parrot Project and Konservasi Kakatua Indonesia

Psittacine Beak and Feather Diseas (PBFD) is the deadliest viral illness contracted by parrots. It is caused by a circovirus–the tiniest of viruses known. The virus and its DNA have one other especially worrisome property– they are resistant to many disinfectants and can persist on surfaces (be they nests in the wild , or toys and perches at home) for months, even for years. Which means if one bird has it, all birds in contact with that bird, its droppings, its feathers or feather dust, or secretions are at risk. (Note: the preferred disinfectant, which CAN kill PBFD virus with a wide margin of safety, is Virkon-S, which we use exclusively at Kembali Bebas). There is no vaccine yet (although several groups are working on one, and Branson Ritchie’s group appears to be close). There is no specific treatment in the affected bird.

Where did PFBD originate? PBFD is known to be prevalent in wild flocks of birds in Australia (especially Greater Sulphur-crested cockatoos) and it is assumed to have originated in Australia, although another school has proposed Africa as its origin

How did it get to the U.S. and other countries? The answer is not known but since Australia has banned the export of its birds most of the time since 1959-1960, it may have come from elsewhere. Rosemary Low reported that many Lesser Sulphur- crested cockatoos imported from Indonesia in the 1970’s and 1980’s later developed PBFD. The clinical disease was found in 0.5% of Indonesian cockatoos imported to the U.S. via Florida in 1986. And 90% of cockatoos imported from Indonesia (via Taiwan) into Bahrain and Saudi Arabia tested positive for the virus (R.Low. A Century of Parrots). Therefore, it is quite possible that the source of this plague was Indonesia.

PBFD is common in captive parrots: PBFD can affect almost any species of parrots, but more commonly Old World than New World parrots.In screening studies, PBFD virus or its DNA was found in 8% of parrots screened in Italy; 39% in Germany; 5% in Thailand; 14-27% in Israel; 75-90% of Sulphur- crested cockatoos in Australia (lower in other species); and anecdotally, is common in breeder cockatoos in Indonesia.

Is PBFD common in the wild? The only systematic studies have been carried out in Australia, but it has been reported in wild parrots through the “Australo-Asian” countries where Old- World cockatoos and parrots are endemic, as well as Africa.

Australia: Many species of wild parrots have PBFD. 40-90% have antibodies to the disease, although a smaller number have clinical disease Africa: Cape parrots, some lovebirds New Guinea: recently reported in two Blue-eyed cockatoos Philippines: Red-vented cockatoos Solomon Islands: rumored to exist in Ducorps’ cockatoos Indonesia: ???

What are the clinical manifestations? PBFD is like the “AIDS” of parrots, because in its worst form, it invades and destroys the immune system, leading to death, usually via secondary infections.

Hyperacute disease (especially cockatoos, 4- 12 weeks old): systemic, fatal. May lack feather lesions. Acute Disease (young birds during first feather cycle). Depression, diarrhea, then painful, feather changes (may be few) Chronic Disease at ages greater than 4 months but under 3 years (see Photo above): Symmetric, progressive changes with each molt. Retained feather sheaths; fractures of shaft; hemorrhage into pulp; feathers short and clubbed; deformed and curled feathers; circumferential constrictions at base; clotted blood in quill; dark red-brown patches in shaft (= necrotic cells).

Progression: powder-down feathers > secondary, tail, crest feathers > primary feathers affected last. Beak (upper affected more than lower): Overgrowth; fractures; necrosis of anterior palate; lack of powder-down . May be painful (impedes eating). Other: immune suppression, leading to death by fungal or bacterial infections Differential diagnosis includes anything impairing blood supply to feathers; feather plucking; recovery from polyoma virus There is a variant (circovirus 2) which most frequently affects lorikeets: clinical signs may become latent.

How is it diagnosed? PCR-DNA testing is the approach of choice. In Australia, the ‘hemagglutination test’ detects the ability of the virus to cause some red blood cells to clump. The ‘hemagglutination inhibition’ test detects antibodies to the virus. Biopsy of affected feather follicles may show characteristic findings under the microscope
Thus in this country, the only routine diagnostic test is by “PCR-DNA,” usually run on a blood sample, but occasionally using feathers or swabs (the latter two may be less sensitive and more prone to false positives). Note: Since it may take up to 3 months to clear the DNA of this virus from the body after the disease has gone into remission, a positive DNA test (in an otherwise healthy-appearing parrot) should lead to a repeat test in three months.

What is the significance of the possible presence of PBFD in Indonesia, to our Program? Quarantine by itself is insufficient to detect latent diseases which may remain hidden for over a year. Birds with resistance to clinical disease, who are carriers, may cause a disease outbreak when entering an area where the birds lack resistance. Zoonoses such as avian influenza, salmonellosis, avian TB, and aspergillosis are a hazard to those caring for the birds.

Have we found PBFD in our birds at Kembali Bebas? Thus far, we have screened 60 parrots (50 of them cockatoos), some of which are at KB, some of which are at Bali Wild Animal Rescue Center and are in the process of being translocated to Kembali Bebas. The good news is that none of the birds was found to be unequivocally positive for the virus, as determined either by PCR-DNA tests, or hemagglutination (HA) testing. (Our collaborators in this work were Dr. Shane Raidal, New South Wales, Australia, and Research Associates Laboratory, Dallas, Tx). However, approximately one-third of the birds had positive antibodies to the virus (detected using the hemagglutination inhibition test).

Conclusions? One possible inference from this finding is that these birds had contracted the virus, formed antibodies, and thereby cleared the virus from the body, or rendered it undetectable by usual tests. If so, this finding must be treated seriously, since latent (or clinically-hidden) virus can be activated by stress–such as might occur during smuggling, transport, starvation, or even breeding. And as indicated above, once the virus makes its way into a facility, it is very hard to clear. Obviously, a lot more study is required.


IPP Website Gets an “Extreme Makeover”

We’re proud and excited to announce that we have a new look and feel to our website with the help of Sam Rapallo, our webmaster. The new site, which is still being updated, will be content rich, and even includes a video of our first three Seram cockatoos returning to the wild! And you can expect more surprises in the future.

Soon we’ll be adding some great elements to our store including custom embroideries, hand-crafted batik items from Bali, and a new kids section. And we will now again make available, t-shirts and other items displaying ALL the previous batik designs of Joan Tilke.

So check it out today and don’t forget to turn up the sound!


Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund Awards Grant

We are pleased to announce that Indonesian Parrot Project has received a grant, chosen out of 260 applications, from the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund to continue our Conservation and Awareness Program (CAP) in Indonesia. The reviewers stated that “The team was pleased to see the growth of this project and the integration of last year’s suggestions.” A summary of this grant follows:

Teaching Conservation of Indonesian Parrots

Indonesia is a large archipelago with many spectacular parrots which, however, are threatened with extinction due in large part to the pet trade. The pet trade is a complex problem resulting from a mixture of a lack of local conservation values, government inaction, and an absence of economic alternatives for poor local villagers. Seram and Ambon Islands in Central Maluku Province are hubs both for the direct smuggling of endemic birds, as well as for passage of birds in transit from adjacent islands to city bird markets. Government officials there have shown a new willingness to work with us to combat smuggling; previously, however, most birds died following confiscation due to the lack of training in the care of birds and inadequate facilities. This problem was largely solved when we established an Avian Care Center on Seram. Therefore, lack of conservation values remains the critical problem to be broached.

The application sent to DWCF brings a multi-factorial approach to the problem—the need to introduce conservation values and pride in local avifauna especially to the local children, some of whom have never seen a parrot in the wild. Our Conservation and Awareness Program will reach not only the local inhabitants of Central Maluku, but also will (in a pilot study) introduce similar concepts in an urban school district in Jakarta.

It will also heighten awareness of smuggling in Maluku to the adult population, and promote anti-trapping initiatives. We anticipate that this program will begin to change attitudes about parrot trapping and conservation in Indonesia in the current and ensuing generations.


Stewart Metz to Speak at AAV in Australia

We’re pleased to announce that our Director, Stewart Metz will be speaking at the AAV conference will in Melbourne, Victoria this upcoming October. The theme of the conference is “Aussie Birds – Exotic Birds.” Co- sponsors Veterinarians of Exotic Pets, the Australian Veterinary Association and the Avian Chapter of the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists.

Indonesian Bird Charity Day Seminar – Sunday, October 7, 2007

Top bird veterinarians from around the world will be in Melbourne for an Association of Avian Veterinarians Conference. Following this they are joining with local bird lovers in putting together a program open to the general public and intended for bird owners, watchers and caregivers alike. Melbourne Museum is donating the use of their theatre and speakers are donating their time. All proceeds will go to the Bali Starling and Indonesian Parrot Projects.

Excellent talks will include: Dr Scott Echols (USA – Environmental enrichment for pet birds); Dr Bayu Wirayudha (Saving the Bali Starling and other endangered Indonesian species); Mr Rory O’Brien (Straddling the Wallace Line – where Asian and Australian birds meet); Dr Bob Doneley (Caring for cockatoos – wild and pet); Dr Stacey Gelis (Looking after lorikeets – wild & pet); Dr Stewart Metz (Rehabilitating Indonesian parrots from the illegal wild bird trade); Mr Matt Baird (Hand rearing Eclectus Parrots) and Dr Pat Macwhirter (Bird germs that jump continents).

IPP would like to thank the Melbourne Museum for hosting the Indonesian Bird Day, Dr. Pat Macwhirter and the Association of Avian Veterinarians Australasian Committee for the kind invitation.

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