Update on avian flu
Find out about the latest avian flu situation in Antarctica and the measures we are taking.
Earlier in the season, the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) was confirmed in South Georgia. We are naturally extremely concerned about the outbreak and its impact on bird populations and other native wildlife at our sites and beyond.
We recognise the virus is spread through natural processes and we are working with partners across the Antarctic and scientific community – including the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) as well as the UK government – to monitor the spread of avian flu in the southern hemisphere.
We have detailed plans in place to monitor and respond should the outbreak move further into the Antarctic Peninsula.
What is UKAHT doing?
We began this season with vigilance and a shared concern for Antarctica’s native wildlife. Contributing to the prevention of further spread and ensuring the safety and well-being of wildlife and our teams is a priority.
Our Antarctic team has been deployed at Base A, Port Lockroy, since early November and will be at Base W, Detaille Island, from mid-December. We have extra precautionary measures in place to help us continue operating and engaging with visitors for as long as we safely can. We remain committed to the conservation and restoration of Antarctic heritage and plan to continue with priority conservation work but remain poised and ready to respond quickly if the situation evolves.
Measures already in place include enhanced biosecurity procedures and preventative initiatives such as taking our team onto ships to share Port Lockory’s heritage and story while still allowing visitors to buy souvenirs and send postcards safely.
Goudier Island Closure
Since our wildlife monitor arrived at Port Lockroy, he has been vigilantly observing the penguins in the colony for any signs of an outbreak. While no evidence of HPAI has been found at Port Lockroy (Goudier Island), it has become apparent landings cannot be conducted while maintaining a 5m/15ft distance to wildlife at all times, particularly as gentoos are nesting close to Bransfield House.
As such, on 5 December 2023, IAATO announced it has closed Goudier Island to landings. Our team will continue to board ships to present to passengers and deliver the shop and post office as onboard services.
At Port Lockroy, our team will continue to monitor and report the health of the colony from a safe distance. We never interfere with the natural cycles of the colony and our focus is on ensuring minimal impact. We also protect areas of the island from human interaction and monitor and compare the population, distribution and breeding success of birds every year.
Reporting any concerns on the health of the colony along with preventative biosecurity procedures at our sites will enable us to further protect the penguin colony and other bird life, and crucially allow us to act upon concerns at the earliest opportunity.
Keep an eye on our Latest News page and social media channels for future updates about the season.
Lead image: fieldwork/Shutterstock
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