Updated 9.10pm -

Scores of ducks which have been dying at Salina have been infected with Avian Flu and Salmonella, the Resources Authority said on Thursday evening.

"Unfortunately, from the samples assessed (by the Veterinary Service), it is clear that the ducks present at Is-Salini area are infected with Avian Flu and Salmonella and hence pose a risk not only to native and migratory wildlife in the area and the environment, but also to public health and food (due to possible transmission of such diseases to domesticated poultry species, which were also released in the same area)," the authority said

The Environment Ministry is holding consultations with the Veterinary and Plants Regulation Division on a plan of action for the ducks' removal. 

The Cleansing Department collected at least 20 dead ducks on Thursday alone, sources told Times of Malta.

Neighbours said a large number of ducks were seen dead in the past few days. 

A commenter on the Rubs Puppy Love site said some 240 ducks had died in a month.

The Resources Authority said the ducks in question are feral domesticated ducks, which are not native to the Maltese Islands.

"Such feral domesticated ducks cause direct environmental damage by altering the habitat where they live, degrading it, and increasing the risks of nutrient enrichment and water contamination. Indeed, the ducks, their droppings and uneaten introduced food sources are leading to water contamination, leading to an increase in nutrients and eutrophication episodes (such as red tides). Such episodes are very damaging to protected wildlife in the area as they may lead to the death of fish and other wildlife, including protected species, as well as other unwanted environmental and health consequences."

The authority said that apart from the introduction of the ducks, non-authorised alterations were also carried out in the site (which lies in a protected area) to accommodate the domesticated ducks. A stop and compliance order has been issued. 

Birdlife Malta, which manages the Salina Nature Reserve said that the area where the ducks live, including the canal, does not form part of the reserve.

“These are domestic ducks and are not to be mistaken for wild birds, including other migrating ducks,” Birdlife said. 

The society said it had noted their predicament and alerted the authorities. 

“The reserve's management immediately called in the relevant authorities and people were sent on site to carry out tests. We are not aware of the conclusions of these tests and we have been calling on the Animal Welfare Department to take action and end the suffering for these ducks which are also in the wrong habitat, seeing that birds like these need fresh water to survive. 

The society also called on the authorities to relocate the ducks.

In contrast to the BirdLife statement, the Resources Authority said in its press statement that ‘Is-Salini’ was designated as a Special Area of Conservation in 2003 and a Management Agreement is in place, with the site being managed through BirdLife Malta, with the involvement of relevant competent entities, including ERA itself.

The issue of the dying ducks was also raised by Nationalist MP Robert Cutajar who took to social media to raise alarm about the increasing number of ducks which were dying. 

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