THE British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) is calling on members to be vigilant in the fight against ‘rice breast’ disease.
Sarcocystosis, caused by the parasite Sarcocystis spp, appears to be on the rise in ducks in the UK. BASC and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) launched the UK Wildfowl Sarcocystis Survey last year to help monitor the disease in the UK and better understand which bird species are affected and the impact it may be having.
So far this year, there have already been more recorded cases than in 2015 with wigeon, mallard, teal and gadwall all affected.
Dr Matt Ellis, BASC’s scientific adviser, said: “We don’t know as yet the full impact the disease is having on the population, so surveillance is essential to give us a more complete picture.
“There is a concern from our partners in eastern Europe that it is impacting on breeding success, which could affect our numbers here as reproduction takes place over there before the ducks migrate.”
Cooking the meat properly kills all stages of the parasitse. However, even though there is not thought to be a risk to human health from the disease, it is not recommended to eat infected birds or feed infected meat to dogs.
Dr Ruth Cromie, Head of Ecosystem Health for the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, said: “Monitoring and understanding diseases of our wildlife is the first step to achieving healthy populations of birds, which is what we all want.
“Harnessing the ‘eyes on the ground’ of our reserve wardens, who look out for dead birds, and wildfowlers, who are able to spot the disease easily in shot ducks, gives us an excellent way of getting to grips with this apparently emerging infection.”
John Dryden, a BASC council member, said: “It is essential that we do as much as we can to properly understand the impact ‘rice breast’ is having on our duck numbers here in the UK, so we urge everyone to play their part by recording their findings.
Anyone who comes across the disease can report their findings via the Sarcocystis Survey website, which includes details of how to send in samples.