HENRY COUNTY, Ga. - Hundreds of vultures are dead at a Henry County animal sanctuary.
Georgia Department of Agriculture officials think the avian flu is to blame.
In a statement, the department wrote:
"We can confirm that at least one of the deceased vultures has tested positive for Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza based on preliminary tests. We are confirming state results with federal laboratories. We anticipate results this evening. While Avian Influenza poses a substantial risk to our domestic foul the risk to pets, livestock and humans remains very low."
Officials have confirmed to FOX 5 they have taken control of the facility.
An investigation into what caused the deaths is now underway.
FOX 5 has recently covered ongoing complaints and safety concerns at Noah’s Ark.
The animal sanctuary responded to the latest incident with a statement released Monday evening that reads:
"As our Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary care team provides a safe and healthy environment for our animals, it is standard practice to collaborate with State and Federal officials. Our No. 1 priority is the safety and health of animals and our community.
"In the past six months, Noah’s Ark has added more animal care staff than ever before and tripled the number of veterinary staff consulting with our staff and treating animals.
"On Saturday 8/13/22, our professional team members noticed an unusual number of dead wild black vultures on property. Out of concern, we notified State authorities the same day and they performed an assessment and gathered samples, sending them to the lab. Noah’s Ark implemented biosecurity measures immediately and has remained in close contact with State officials daily since that time. The risk of human infection with avian influenza is very low.
"Since 8/13 Noah’s ark has been coordinating with local, Federal and State agencies -- Georgia Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Department of Natural Resources – to manage and contain the situation. All three agencies have been on site since 8/13 in an overabundance of caution to ensure the health and safety of the animals and humans at Noah’s Ark and the protection of the community at large.
"On 8/20/22 the State informed Noah’s Ark that the initial testing indicated Avian Influenza (HPAI) which is found in 45 states and carried by wild birds, but can also be transmitted to poultry and waterfowl (source APHIS.usda.gov). This is a natural disease event.
"We have been placed under quarantine by the Georgia Department of Agriculture. As a natural disease event, the site needs to be contained, cleaned up and then sanitized/disinfected. We are at the contained stage. But our State Agency partners are and will lead clean up and sanitization. They will lead full vulture removal and roost removal and sanitation.
"It was an unusually large vulture roost that had developed over the last several years. The vulture population is still dying off as the disease runs its course. State agencies are leading the cleanup and disposal and will have an accurate accounting in coming days.
"None of the parrots or exotic birds in our care have shown any signs of disease.
"Noah’s Ark is and will remain in close collaboration with State authorities as they lead the charge to manage this. As a precaution the affected birds on property are being depopulated. Officials are monitoring other birds within the surveillance area and no other birds are exhibiting any clinical signs.
"Understandably, we will remain closed to the public during the response. We appreciate the timely and professional response of our State and Federal officials. Noah’s Ark is committed to the safety and health of its people, animals, and community. We are diligently looking for quick resolutions and will continue to provide updates as they evolve."