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A trip to Yorkshire to learn about bird pathology and a literary genius

s coordinator for the Seychelles Magpie-Robin Recovery Team (SMART), I am responsible for dealing with any issues that arise with this charismatic yet troubled species. For the past decade or so things have been running smoothly for the endangered bird having been translocated to four islands resulting in an upwards trend on each. Yet it is important to remember that we are still dealing with an endangered species, with around 280 birds in existence.

SMART members were obviously worried when an infection of sorts had a deadly effect on several birds on 2 of the 5 islands. The need for an emergency action plan to sample and analyse these birds became apparent but resources and funding are limited within this region.

Dr Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles’ CEO, contacted a number of prominent figures in the bird and veterinary scene to discuss this issue, resulting in an offer from the International Zoological Veterinary Group (IZVG) based in the UK of assistance and advice, as well as equipment and sample analysis.

I travelled to the UK as part of my annual holiday and spent a day in Yorkshire with Dr. Andrew Greenwood and Dr. Daniela Denke. We discussed the cases that had manifested so far and they talked me through the best way to take samples from a bird when freezer to lab conditions are not available. They stocked me up with all the equipment we would need to take samples and it was a very satisfying and educational trip.

Whilst driving to the lab through the famous Yorkshire Moors (which are a great expanse of open uncultivated land, across a dramatic landscape) I noticed a sign to Haworth.

This is the birthplace and old residence of a very famous literary family; the Brontë’s. Andrew and I chatted about this, both being fans of the books and to my great delight on the way back to the airport we stopped in Haworth at the old Parsonage to soak up that place which had inspired some of the greatest British literature ever written!

So my thanks go out to the IZVG for their assistance, for Daniela for talking me through pathology sampling and for Andrew who drove me to and from Manchester airport, taught me the best course of action for ensuring Seychelles Magpie Robins continue to do well and for being a wonderful Yorkshire Moors tour guide and taking his time to let me see Haworth!

Now SMART are fully equipped to deal with taking samples for pathology testing in order to understand and help prevent the spread of potentially devastating disease or infection in this species.

April Burt