12 biosecurity failures in Australia: Pigeon paramyxovirus

Pigeon paramyxovirusDespite the known potential of the pathogen ‘pigeon paramyxovirus’ to cause disease with high rates of mortality in many Australian bird species, and its spread around the world, there was no contingency plan for the virus when it was discovered in Australia.

Despite its initial occurrence for several months just in loft pigeons, there was no attempt to eradicate the pathogen and it seems it was not ever properly assessed as a potential national eradication target.

If this disease had been of concern to industry the response would undoubtedly have been much more rigorous.

The response was flawed in several respects and failed to prevent spread of the disease between pigeon lofts. There was a refusal to import a vaccine from overseas and trials of a chicken vaccine used for Newcastle disease were slow.

It is believed the pathogen arrived with smuggled pigeons, highlighting the need for more focus on enforcement against wildlife smuggling.

More case studies

This is just one of 12 case studies demonstrating how weaknesses in Australia’s biosecurity systems have allowed the entry and establishment of new species likely to cause environmental harm.

All 12 case studies were submitted to the Australian Senate inquiry into how well we are prepared to prevent the entry and establishment of invasive species likely to harm our natural environment.

Image: Feral rock pigeons all over the world have been infected by pigeon paramyxovirus, monkeyc.net (Creative Commons licence)