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Visitors in a flap as zoo penguins marched off over avian flu fears

Tourists flocking to Dublin Zoo to see the ever popular penguins this winter have had their feathers ruffled as all birds have been moved out of sight over avian flu fears.

The zoo said it moved all its birds indoors after a case of the H5N8 strain was confirmed in a wild bird in Co Wexford.

Sixteen Humboldt penguins, eight ostriches, 25 waldrapp ibis, five common peafowl, two macaws and 82 Chilean flamingos have all been moved out of public view.

Chickens and ducks from the zoo's family farm have also been taken indoors.

The precautionary move has irked some visitors who had travelled specifically to catch a glimpse of the captive birds.

One mother of a two-year-old and a three-year-old complained that their day was "ruined" when they arrived at the empty penguin enclosure.

On the zoo's Facebook page, she wrote: "..my kids were really disappointed.. ruined their day".

But Dublin Zoo said the wellness of the birds was its priority and explained its contingency plan meant all birds had to be moved indoors to large back-of-house facilities.

"This precautionary measure has been taken to prevent birds in the Dublin Zoo collection from contracting bird flu from wild birds," a spokeswoman said.

"Dublin Zoo takes all bird flu directives from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine."

It could not confirm how long the birds would remain out of view.

The Department of Agriculture has confirmed that the avian influenza subtype H5N8 detected in a wigeon, or wild duck, found in Co Wexford on December 28, was the same "highly pathogenic" strain already found in the UK and mainland Europe.

It was the only case detected in Ireland so far, the department said.

Health chiefs say the risk to humans is considered to be very low.

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