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Berlin Zoo reopens after a case of bird flu

origin 1Andreas Knieriem, director of the zoo, and Franziska Giffey, mayor of Berlin, walk through Berlin Zoo. Berlin Zoo reopened its doors on Christmas Eve for the first time after being closed for around five weeks due to a case of bird flu. Paul Zinken/dpa

On Christmas Eve, Berlin Zoo reopened its doors for the first time after being closed for about five weeks due to a case of bird flu.

On Saturday, Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey paid a visit to the animals and brought a Christmas tree for the elephants.

The number of visitors remained manageable, but they had to follow some measures to protect the zoo’s bird population and prevent the spread of the H5N1 virus.

For example, the zoo has placed special mats with disinfectant at the entrance, on which guests have to walk or drive. Also, no birds may be touched en route to and within the zoo.

The bird affected by this virus, a hamerkop wader, died Nov. 13, according to the zoo. Following laboratory confirmation of bird flu, the zoo was evacuated on November 18. All other test results from the remaining 1,200 birds have since been negative, according to the zoo.

In the coming days, according to the district office in Mitte where the zoo is located, the veterinary inspectorate is also expected to issue an exemption permit so that all birds in the zoo can stay alive. Only birds that have been in direct contact with the dead hamerkop should stay indoors. They must be tested again in the first week of January.

The virus behind the so-called avian flu, also known as bird flu, is called H5N1. So far, it has only been linked to human infections in rare individual cases. However, it can easily spread in bird populations. For animals, it is a mortal danger.

origin 1Franziska Giffey, mayor of Berlin, and Andreas Knieriem, director of the zoo, feed a Christmas tree to elephants in the zoo. Berlin Zoo reopened its doors on Christmas Eve for the first time after being closed for around five weeks due to a case of bird flu. Paul Zinken/dpa
origin 1Children and their companions observe a Sumatran tiger during the Christmas feeding at the Brno Zoo. Uhlíø Patrik/CTK/dpa