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Saturday, February 1, 2003



Isle bird businesses are
hit by second avian disease

Signs your bird may have disease


By Leila Fujimori
lfujimori@starbulletin.com

The pet bird trade and poultry industry have had their wings clipped on two fronts: a recently imposed bird importation embargo and an earlier ban on shipping birds through the mail.

An outbreak in California of exotic Newcastle disease this past fall forced the state Department of Agriculture to issue the embargo last week against the importation of birds from California and Nevada. Local pet bird and poultry breeders and retailerssay they cannot get the birds they need because they order from the affected areas.

Randy Ogata, manager of Pets Unlimited, said his store is relying heavily on local breeders to maintain its inventory until the embargo is lifted.

"The hard-to-get stuff (rare birds) will be even more difficult. We may try to reroute and get them from other states," Ogata said.

Normally, about 20 percent of the store's birds are imported from California breeders.

"We've been dealing with the same people for many years," he said. "We're real particular about where we buy from."

The state ban on birds from 10 Southern California and two Nevada counties was issued Jan. 24. A federal quarantine zone prohibits the movement of birds from those areas.

Because poultry is more susceptible to exotic Newcastle disease, Hawaii has also prohibited importing chickens and turkeys from California.

Exotic Newcastle disease has already cost millions of dollars in the poultry industry in the affected areas, where diseased birds have had to be destroyed.

Darren Crosby, manager of Hawaii Parrot Co., said he purchased a pair of rose-breasted cockatoos for $2,500 from California but cannot bring them in. He also canceled plans to order about $1,000 worth of smaller parrots.

Most of the breeders he orders from are in California, although many exotic-bird breeders are found on the East Coast and in Texas.

"California is easier to ship from because the birds spend less time on the plane," he said. "We need to bring in new blood to keep the bloodlines strong."

In September, Hawaii imposed restrictions to keep the West Nile virus out, which bird retailers say has increased shipping costs and overloaded them with paperwork.

The state Department of Agriculture, with the help of the U.S. Postal Service, prohibited the shipping of birds by mail. Bird importers have had to apply for import permits, get veterinary inspection certificates and have their shipments inspected at the airport.

Kaneohe Farm Supplies owner Glenn Yogi, who imports game cocks and a variety of chicks ranging from quails to geese, said it is hurting his business.

"We can't bring in any animals (through the mail)," he said. "You're talking at least $25,000 gross sales."

Yogi said the postal service is the cheapest way to send a bird, and his mainland suppliers must now resort to air freight.

But those in the pet and poultry business are willing to comply with the new regulations.

"I don't want to bring Newcastle to Hawaii," Yogi said. "It would wipe out everything with feathers on it."


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Signs your bird may have disease

Veterinarians, bird owners, poultry producers and those in the pet trade have been urged by the state veterinarian to watch their birds for signs of exotic Newcastle disease.

Signs include coughing, sneezing, listlessness, nervousness (exhibited by circling and paralysis), high mortality and decreased egg production.

Birds can catch the disease from infected birds or contaminated materials. The avian disease does not seriously threaten humans, but may cause eye irritation to those working with infected birds.

Anyone with birds exhibiting signs of the disease is urged to call the state Department of Agriculture at 837-8092.




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