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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 March 2008, 18:13 GMT
Swannery hit by bird flu reopens
Swan herder
The swan herders build strong nests from the swannery's reed beds
A swannery in Dorset hit by bird flu and flooding has opened to the public for the new tourist season, after being given the all-clear.

Ten wild mute swans and a Canada goose have tested positive for the virulent H5N1 strain of bird flu at Abbotsbury Swannery since 10 January.

Swan herders have also had to rebuild 80 nests for the colony of swans, which were washed away in recent storms.

The swannery closed for the winter on 28 October last year.

Earlier this month restrictions imposed to combat bird flu in the county were eased by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The Health Protection Agency have assured us that our staff are safe to work at the swannery and it's safe for the public to come and visit the swans
John Houston
Abbotsbury Tourism

The wild swans move from the nine-mile (14.5km) Fleet lagoon, behind Chesil Beach near Portland, to the Abbotsbury reserve in March to breed.

Each swan lays up to 13 eggs.

It is the only place in the world where visitors can walk through the heart of a colony of nesting mute swans.

It was established in 1393 by Benedictine monks.

Swan herders were in the process of making about 160 nests for the birds when 80 were washed away by the severe storm which hit the UK last Monday.

A swannery spokesperson said no eggs had been inside the nests.

John Houston, manager of Abbotsbury Tourism, said: "It has been a very unusual and tough year for the swannery staff, starting with avian flu which we seem to have got through, and then to be hit by flooding just a few days before opening has been pretty tough.

"But we are taking heart from the fact that the Health Protection Agency have assured us that our staff are safe to work at the swannery and it's safe for the public to come and visit the swans.

"Also we are reassured by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that by opening we are not a threat to the local poultry community," he continued.

"We are now looking forward to having a normal summer season."

The first cygnets are expected to hatch in early May.



SEE ALSO
Storms batter southern England
10 Mar 08 |  England

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