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Amid bird flu scare, forest dept shuts Surajpur for visitors, blocks parts of Okhla sanctuary

The divisional forest department, Gautam Budh Nagar, on Thursday restricted access to certain areas of the Okhla Bird Sanctuary and closed the Surajpur wetlands for visitors as a preventive measure against bird flu.

Forest department officials also held an inspection at the Okhla Bird Sanctuary to check for any unusual death of avifauna and later issued a warning against bird flu. The officials said that a surveillance team will also be deployed at Dhanauri wetlands to keep an eye on any unusual activity as for now restricting access to Dhanauri wetlands is beyond their jurisdiction.

“We have closed access to the two watch towers and the wooden bridge that connects the land with the towers in the wake of the possibility of bird flu as cases have already been reported in neighbouring Rajasthan and other states. Those certain areas had been temporarily shut due to their proximity with the water bodies and the water birds. However, the road between gate number one and two, which is over three kilometre long will stay open,” said PK Srivastava, divisional forest officer (DFO), GB Nagar. The Okhla Bird Sanctuary spreads over 400 hectares and recorded 21,061 water-birds of 115 species as per the annual census held by the forest department in February 2020 for the birding year of 2019-20.

He added that access to Surajpur Wetlands will be totally barred till further orders.

“The Surajpur wetlands are anyway a reserve forest which means access to visitors had always been subjected to the department’s choice. We had let it open for visitors so far for awareness, but in the wake of the bird flu threat we have decided to restrict the entry for some time. At Dhanauri we will have a surveillance team to check for any symptoms of flu. Since the region is yet to be declared a reserve area, thus we don’t have power to restrict entry to it,” added the DFO.

Surajpur wetlands recently saw a census on January 2 counting a total of 3,107 birds of 40 species against 2,092 birds from a total of 39 species in January 2020.

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