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balidiscovery.com recently caught up with Ketut Suasana, the General Manager of one of Bali's most popular tourist attractions - Bali Bird Park.
A highly intelligent professional who obviously cares greatly for the more than 1,000 birds representing 250 species of birds in his charge, Ketut interrupted his busy schedule to speak to us while an attentive, eagle-eyed friend looked on.
The Interview: Ketut Suasana of the Bali Bird Park
balidiscovery.com: Ketut, first of all, what about Bird Flu at the Bali Bird Park? Have you had any cases to report and what measures have been introduced to keep both the park and its visitors safe?
Suasana: Obviously, we are extremely concerned with the possibility of the H5N1 Virus affecting any part of our collection. With this in mind, we are in close contact with almost every bird collection in Indonesia, Singapore, and those held by our professional colleagues in Australia in order to share information about the virus, its causes, and its prevention.
In every instance to date, there has been no reports whatsoever from these sources of the H5N1 Bird Flu Virus. The reports of Bird Flu at Jakarta's Ragunan Zoo were not verified and, as a result, have not been included in the WHO's list of infected birds.
Six weeks ago when a case of H5N1 was discovered in West Java, we immediately contacted Badan Pengendalian Penyakit Veteriner (BPPV), (Editor's Note: The Agency for the Control of Veterinary Diseases) who have in their possession World Health Organization (WHO) H5N1 test kits and requested that they take samples from our birds. A subsequent testing of our entire collection and all our staff revealed that there were no H5N1 Virus cases at the Bali Bird Park.
As an added precaution, we have introduced extensive preventative measures at the park, including a complete banning of poultry in the park, and all staff make a complete change of clothing upon arrival and departure at the park. Disinfectant foot baths are required for all staff and guests at every entrance and exit and the BPPV has provided a safe disinfectant spray for use on every one entering and exiting the Park.
At all times we practice good husbandry with our birds, including long periods of quarantine with any new stock, routine testing in our laboratory for our exisiting stock, and the assignment of a full-time veterinarian who, together with our staff, carefully monitor all birds on a daily basis.
It appears that poor husbandry and over crowded production conditions for commercial poultry together with a low level of health understanding are the major precursors to the possibility of attracting the H5N1 Bird Flu Virus.
balidiscovery.com: Despite such elaborate precautions being put into place by the Park, are fears of Bird Flu having any effect on your daily attendance figures?
Suasana: There has been an obvious effect on our customers. The combined effects of the H5N1 Bird flu virus scare and the October 1st Bali Bombing have drastically reduced our daily customer base.
As you know, the Bali Bird Park has undergone many changes and during the recent months of July, August and September we were proud to host to an average of over 400 customers per day. The growing success of our entertainment programs plus the introduction of Indonesia's first Free Flight Bird Show has sucessfully repositioned the Bali Bird Park as a tourist experience comparable in quality to the highly successful Jurong Bird Park in Singapore.
However, while our European and Australian market are still showing signs of strength, unfortunately it is the Japanese and Taiwanese markets whose attendance figures suggest concerns and fears regarding Bird Flu.
balidiscovery.com: What message are you trying to send these markets, to travel wholesalers and the rest of the travel industry as regards Bird Flu?
Suasana: Obviously it is extremely important that everybody knows that the H5N1 Virus Bird Flu is of fundamental concern to all of us at the Bali Bird Park.
The Bali BPPV have been extremely diligent in checking live stock across Bali. To date there has never been a single case of H5N1 Bird Flu in Bali. With this in mind and with the elaborate preventative precautions in place, we are supremely confident in assuring all our travel industry partners and customers that bird flu is not an issue that should prevent them from visiting the finest collections of Indonesian birds in the world.
balidiscovery.com: On a wider scale, what is the Bali Bird Park doing in the nation-wide effort to ensure that bird flu does not become a global pandemic?
Suasana: Fortunately, the Bali Bird Park is in the enviable position of possession the best avian research veterinarian laboratories in Indonesia as well as having well-trained full-time veterinarian staff and as many as 30 bird keepers in attendance on a daily basis. As part of our community-outreach effort, the Bali Bird Park is preparing to become Bali's resource and information center for H5N1 Bird Flu Virus.
Using our in-house expertise and drawing on the skills of both national and international experts in the field, we are preparing a series of multi-lingual publications and diorama info-panels which will help efforts to disseminate the correct information with regard to the H5N1 Bird Flu Virus in Bali, across Indonesia, and throughout Asia.
This information will include simple explanations of how we can work together in order to minimize the probability of the virus affecting our lives.
It is also our intention to invite government and community groups from across Bali to our information center to participate in inter-active presentations which we hope will stimulate a coordinate and well-conceived approach to preventing the spread of H5N1.
More information: http://www.balidiscovery.com/tours/tour.asp?Id=467