Wild birds in the orders Anseriformes (particularly ducks, geese, swans) and Charadriiformes (particularly gulls, terns and waders), are commonly considered to be the natural reservoir of the Avian Influenza Virus. These migratory waterfowl are considered as potential spreaders of the H5N1 HPAI strain, along with legal and illegal poultry and wildlife trade, however their relative importance in the dissemination of this virus is still controversal. To better understand the way wild birds may spread HPAIV and to improve our understanding of the ecology of AIV, several programmes have been implemented.
FAO-OIE International Scientific Conference on Avian Influenza and Wild Birds in Rome, Italy (May 2006) stated that there was a need for improved understanding of wild bird behavior and migratory routes, improved understanding of potential interactions between wildlife, livestock and humans, and that telemetry technology be incorporated into ornithological and epidemiological research. In accordance with these recommendations, a satellite telemetry survey
was implemented in three African countries (Malawi, Mali and Nigeria) in order to improve our understanding of waterbird movements, in relation to the potential role that they may play in the transmission of avian diseases, such as avian influenza.
In response to the increasing threat of H5N1 virus, the FAO implemented a set of 5 projects under the Technical Cooperation Programmes for Eastern Europe and Caucasus, for the Middle East and for East, West and North Africa. These projects had the objectives of improving epidemiological surveillance and strengthening capacities to prepare emergency plans against the dissemination of HPAI into the region, in relation to wild birds’ migrations and poultry trade. CIRAD has been involved in two surveillance campaigns for sampling wild birds in 19 countries (see also surveillance projects page
Within the framework of an international project to understand and control the disease (GRIPAVI
), a long term programme for monitoring virus circulation in wild avifauna was initiated at several areas in Africa, and one in Asia. Selected sites include important wetlands for migratory waterbirds and areas where there is high potential for connectivity between wild and domestic :