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Town watches swans after flu news

10 January 08 20:30 GMT

Officials in a Devon town known for its black swans say they are monitoring the situation in nearby Dorset after bird flu was discovered in mute swans.

The three swans were found dead with the virulent H5N1 strain.

Rosalind Prowse, mayor of Dawlish, said the town had a number of wild birds it was responsible for, including four black swans.

The RSPB is increasing surveillance of wild birds on wetland nature reserves in Dorset, Devon and Somerset.

The avian flu virus H5N1 was detected in mute swans from the Abbotsbury Swannery in Dorset.

The black swans in Dawlish Water have been a major tourist attraction for decades and are used as the town's emblem.

They were brought to Dawlish, from Australia, at the start of the 20th Century.

Mayor Prowse said the swans would be monitored, but that moving them might be difficult if the virus spreads.

Vigilance call

She said: "It isn't an easy matter, and obviously it would be a matter of trying to find somewhere to keep them.

"But black swans are very difficult because they're very territorial, and if you move them around you can't always put them back where you took them from."

The RSPB said vigilance was the first priority because it was unsure how the virus came to the South West.

Peter Exley of the charity said: "It is unlikely to have involved the swans directly as this population is highly sedentary."

He said that since bird flu first appeared as a threat to birds in the UK, the RSPB had been at the forefront of monitoring wild birds and that work would continue.

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