VIDEO. Lot: The birds of the Rocher des Aigles have flown

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Le Rocher des Aigles was able to reopen its doors on May 26th after being officially closed on April 8th due to the bird flu epidemic. Three birds in the park were affected.

When the Rocher des Aigles finds two of its dead owls in early April, it cannot be an ostrich. In the midst of an avian flu epidemic, the bird park quickly became suspicious. Analyzes can confirm that the dead animals are actually infected with bird flu.

Raphaël Arnaud, director of the Rocher des Aigles.
Photo DDM – line Chopin

Neither one nor two, the prefectural decree falls. The facility must close its doors for at least three weeks. We are then on 8.4. This is unprecedented for the park: in 45 years of activity, this is the first time that the Rocher des Aigles has been closed for health reasons. Raphaël Arnaud, the director of the Rocher des Aigles, had not expected that his house would be affected by bird flu. Especially since the 300 birds in the park are vaccinated against this disease. “The vaccine was recommended a few years ago. We have decided to vaccinate every year. It had become a habit, although not mandatory,” says Raphaël Arnaud.

Strict health guidelines

A few days later, a third bird is also affected by bird flu. The closure will be extended for another three weeks. In addition to the absence of the audience, the number of teams is reduced: of the 16 employees of the facility, only six are allowed to enter the bird park’s enclosure. To avoid spreading the disease, health regulations are drastic. Basile Nozières, animal keeper at Rocher des Aigles, is one of the employees authorized to come during the closure. “At the entrance to each gate was a footbath that we put our shoes through. We were not allowed to enter the aviaries and if we were we had to have gowns, gloves, mask and shoe covers. We took maximum precautions for the birds,” he recalls. During this period, the vehicle in charge of delivering food to the park is subject to a health pass. Every time he gets on or off, his tires are disinfected with a sprayer to avoid spreading the infection.

The Rocher des Aigles has more than 300 birds of 60 different species.

The Rocher des Aigles has more than 300 birds of 60 different species.
Photo DDM – line Chopin

In order to monitor the development of the situation, samples are being taken in the park. “We have not been idle. The Toulouse Veterinary School, together with our referring veterinarian, took the initiative to collect samples within the facility. They took samples from 177 birds and everything was negative,” reports Raphaël Arnaud. A relief for the farm: Avian flu does not go beyond the three birds affected. “Then our reference vet made a request to reopen, which was examined by the veterinary services of the Lot. It has asked us to carry out 20 additional analyzes before we are allowed to reopen, ”explains the director.

A loss of 12,000 entries

But once the health risk has lifted, the park cannot reopen overnight. Because in normal times, the trainers of the park offer the audience daily shows with eagles, vultures and kites. However, the closure has also meant that training has stopped and it will take a few days for the birds to be operational again. “It took a good two weeks to properly retrain them. They needed to get back in shape, pick up the pace… and so did we! smiles Basile Nozières.

On May 26th, the Rocher des Aigles was finally able to reopen its doors. After two years of the pandemic, these weeks of closure were not wanted. The park estimates that it lost 12,000 entries, amounting to 120,000 euros. “We must now restart the activity and, above all, make it known that we can welcome the public again,” begins Raphaël Arnaud. At the Rocher des Aigles, everyone hopes never to see another wave of the epidemic.

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