Imphal : Authorities in Manipur are facing a bizarre problem with poultry farmers clandestinely shifting birds from their sheds to distant places to evade culling of chicken and ducks following an outbreak of bird flu.
"We have come across many reports of people loading their poultry into vans and other modes of transport and shifting them to other places to escape culling," K. Gopal, nodal officer of the Animal Disease Control Programme in Manipur, told IANS.
The culling of an estimated 160,000 birds was being carried out in a five km radius around the farm at Chenngmeirong near Imphal where the deaths were reported July 11. Laboratory tests have confirmed the presence of H5 strains that are highly pathogenic in nature.
"Police have been alerted to check such illegal transportation of chicken to other places," Gopal said.
At least six people were detained by the police while trying to smuggle out the poultry from near Chenngmeirong to distance places since Thursday.
"We are maintaining a close vigil across the state and anybody found violating the ban on sale or purchase of chicken or even transportation of birds would be dealt with firmly," a police official said.
Officials of the Rapid Response Team engaged in culling have also come across people trying to hide chicken and ducks in their backyards.
"A visiting team heard the chicken clucking despite claims by the poultry owner that they had just 100 of the birds in the farm. On further investigation, more than 500 chicken were found hidden inside a cafe in their backyard," a veterinary official said.
But despite some tricksters trying to act smart, most farm owners were voluntarily offering the birds for culling.
"There are some mischievous elements no doubt, but in general we are getting full cooperation from the public," Gopal said.
The state government Wednesday sounded a general alert across Manipur and banned the sale and purchase of poultry after the Indian health and animal husbandry departments confirmed that tests carried out on chickens that died at the Chenngmeirong farm had tested positive for bird flu.
The farm owners were being paid Rs.30 for a chicken culled and Rs.10 for a chick as compensation.