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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 October 2005, 21:33 GMT 22:33 UK
Scottish site in bird flu study
Defra sign
Defra is working with a range of organisations
A Scottish site has been chosen to take part in a nationwide survey to monitor for signs of bird flu.

The government has stressed that the risk of the disease reaching the UK through migrating birds remains low.

However, it has joined forces with bird lovers and conservation groups for the survey, which will look for signs of avian influenza viruses in wild birds.

In Scotland, sampling will take place at the wildfowl reserve at Caerlaverock in Dumfries and Galloway.

Birds legally shot by wildfowlers from the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), on Loch Leven in the west highlands and on the River Forth, will also be included in the programme.

The three-month study follows reports that wild birds may have been involved in the spread of bird flu from China and Mongolia to Eastern Russia.

Monitor waterbirds

The survey has been ordered by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) as part of a European-wide programme.

It will work with the RSPB, the British Trust for Ornithology, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the BASC to monitor waterbirds.

Samples will be taken from live birds caught in traps and nets, a small number of birds which have been shot legally and birds which have been found dead.

This surveillance programme is important to maintain vigilance
Debby Reynolds
Defra chief vet

Work will also continue to sample a larger range of wild birds for other avian diseases.

Defra chief vet Debby Reynolds, said: "The risk of avian influenza spreading from eastern Russia to the UK via migrating birds is still low.

"However, we have said all along that we must remain on the look out for the disease. This surveillance programme is important to maintain vigilance."

People who see unusually large groups of dead birds should call the Defra helpline on 08459 335577.

The RSPB said that most birds came to Scotland from the north, although several thousand ducks - like the wigeon and teal - came from the east.


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