MARWELL has introduced precautionary measures to protect itself from bird flu after a case was confirmed nearby.

Although the zoo is currently free of avian influenza, it has taken strict measures after a farm in Bishop's Waltham had to cull its birds.

The site has temporarily closed its Energy for Life: Tropical House and walkthrough aviaries to the public, while additional measures have been taken to reduce contact with wild birds.

Marwell is home to critically endangered species such as blue-crowned laughing thrushes and swift parrots in addition to birds such as Humboldt penguins and flamingos.

The avian flu restrictions come as the latest setback for the conservation charity, which was forced to close for a total of nine months during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chief executive, James Cretney, said: “This couldn’t have come at a worse time for us. Just as we’re trying to get back on our feet for what we hoped would be the first normal year since 2019, we learned that like many other businesses, we are now part of an Avian Influenza Surveillance Zone following a confirmed case in Bishops Waltham.

“Whilst the welfare of our large bird collection is a priority, this will no doubt be disappointing news for many of our guests. We thank all our guests and members for their support and hope they will continue to visit us during this time.

“Marwell is home to more than 140 exotic and endangered species and over 2,500 animals, so there’s lots to see. Please do be mindful, however, that it is winter and our animals have the freedom to choose where they are throughout the day, so it may be they are indoors, where most are still viewable. We advise our guests to consider Marwell to be like a walking safari and to spend 4-5 hours exploring our 140 acre park, giving them the best opportunity to see the animals.”

Avian flu is a disease that spreads among birds and this winter season has seen the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) diagnose more cases than in any previous UK outbreak.

An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) was put in place across Great Britain on November 3 last year followed by the requirement to house all poultry on November 29.

Marwell’s veterinary services manager, Dr Sarah Jayne Smith, added: “You will notice that some areas of the zoo are temporarily closed, to reduce the risk associated with contact between people and our birds.

“Additional hand sanitisers, foot mats and foot dips have been put in place at all entrance points to the zoo. If you see one of these on your journey through the zoo, please use it. If you keep captive birds at home, who are usually outdoors, please postpone your visit to us.”

Both guests and members are urged to book online at ahead of their visit while the zoo continues to restrict numbers.

Marwell Wildlife is a global conservation charity, which relies solely on income from the zoo and the generosity of its supporters.