Mystery disease killing magpies says Lesmurdie’s Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

Magpies are dying due to a mystery disease. Picture: Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre/Facebook
Magpies are dying due to a mystery disease. Picture: Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre/Facebook

A MYSTERY disease is claiming the lives of native birds.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Lesmurdie reported that “a new or unidentified disease” had besieged magpies.

“Our first casualty appeared in December 2017 and by the end of March we received 14 cases,” the post read.

“Affected magpies have a 50-50 chance of survival.”

The symptoms included progressive weakness in the legs and wings, clenched feet, inability to stand, neurological deficiency (not defensive, poor response to visual stimuli, poor swallow reflex), weak neck, respiratory distress, excessive thick oral mucous, and weight loss (thin or emaciated).

According to Kanyana, it was too early to know what caused the disease and how it was being spread but encouraged people to keep an eye on magpies and bring any birds to the centre if they showed similar symptoms.

One symptom of the mysterious disease is clenched feet.

A Perth Zoo spokeswoman said it had received reports of several “black and white” bird deaths, which resembled cases in New South Wales between 2001 and 2006 of a neurological syndrome in the birds.

“The WA birds are presenting with neurological signs and have a typically poor prognosis due to rapid deterioration,” she said.

“Other anecdotal signs reported include depression, some degree of leg paralysis and mucous discharge.”

Perth Zoo senior veterinarian Simone Vitali said post mortem examinations of the birds were being undertaken, with additional testing to investigate possible infectious causes for the deaths

“Sick birds and dead birds have not been concentrated to a single geographical location, and the findings so far do not point to a poisoning event,” she said.

“Some of the cases so far examined in Perth have some parallels with this condition (in the eastern states) but investigations are ongoing to determine if we are seeing a similar syndrome.”

Testing is being conducted by Perth Zoo and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.

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