ATLANTA—Officials are working to contain a virus outbreak that has killed more than 700 birds at the Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary, located in Henry County, south of Atlanta.
The Georgia Department of Agriculture detected the H5N1 virus at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary on Sunday, Aug. 21. Officials said the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) was the cause of the birds’ deaths. HPAI poses little threat to humans, but birds infected with the virus should not be handled, officials said.
The state Department of Agriculture announced that the virus had been detected in a domestic flock in Toombs County, resulting in the deaths of 490 birds in June
A news release from State Sen. Emanuel Jones, who represents Georgia’s 10th Senate District, which includes Henry County, where the outbreak occurred, stated that more than 700 wild black vultures were found deceased on the grounds of the sanctuary.
As a result, many avian species including ostrich, emu, and parrots that call the 250-acre sanctuary home are set to be humanely euthanized, officials said. The sanctuary provides care for injured, abused and orphaned animals.
Meanwhile, a six-mile perimeter surrounding the sanctuary grounds has been put in place to help combat the spread of the virus, officials said.
Sen. Jones expressed his concern about the continuing unfolding events at the animal sanctuary.
“I am deeply saddened at the news of the latest developments unfolding at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary,” said Jones. “The animals and staff deserve the highest level of care during these difficult times and I fully intend to do all I can to continue to bring awareness and support to this life-saving sanctuary.
“On behalf of the Henry County Delegation, it is our mission to provide the upmost respect and dedication to the animals and staff and Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary to help combat the devastating events that have unfolded at such a wonderful place.”
State Rep. Angela Moore, who also has been monitoring the situation at Noah’s Ark, issued the following statement:
“It breaks my heart that the avian flu has been detected at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary. I’m grateful that Noah’s Ark and our state authorities are working quickly to mitigate and prevent the spread of the virus from affecting the surrounding areas. Noah’s Ark is such a wonderful refuge for all kinds of wildlife, and I trust that the owners and the state will be able to provide a high level of care to animals while the sanctuary remains closed.”
Recently, a new board of directors took over operations of the nonprofit after a number of issues surfaced under the founding family’s management of the sanctuary. Last week, a number of those issues were discussed at a meeting with Jones, Henry County Board of Commissioners’ Chairwoman Carlotta Harrell, State Rep. Moore and Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black at Black’s office. Moore said the new board was invited but did not attend.
The sanctuary said in a statement more staff has been hired to address operation issues.
“In the past six months, Noah’s Ark has added more animal care staff than ever before and have tripled the number of veterinary staff consulting with our staff and treating animals,” the statement said.
According to Noah’s Ark’s Facebook page, the sanctuary will be closed to visitors Aug. 23-27. Comments on the FB page express discord between the new board and members of the Hedgecloth family who founded the animal sanctuary.