The American Federation of Aviculture's annual convention

Much of the convention was dedicated to avicultural matters - housing, feeding, behavioural problems, breeding, etc.

I have just got back from the American Federation of Aviculture's annual convention - this year in St. Louis, Missouri. Apart from the AFA convention we visited the St. Louis zoo, which is excellent and, unusually, open free of charge to the public. I went to the famous Arch on Sunday after the convention finished, but there was a long wait to ascend its 630 feet, so I visited the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Museum at its base instead. This interesting museum celebrates the pioneer movement westwards and settlement of the great prairies and the hinterland of the west coast.

Much of the convention was dedicated to avicultural matters - housing, feeding, behavioural problems, breeding, etc. As far as this website is concerned the most important items were the training of the Spix's Macaws at Al-Wabra to accept handling for veterinarian treatment by Karen Justice, from Charlotte, North Carolina, aspects of Proventricular Dilatation Disease (PDD), otherwise known as Macaw Wasting Disease, although it has been found in 50 species of parrot, and cloning possibilities for the future.

During the convention we were excited to learn that the virus causing PDD may have been identified by researchers at the University of California as belonging to the bornavirus group, which also causes encephalitis in horses and livestock. Samples were apparently supplied by well-known veterinarian Susan Clubb. More samples are to be tested, but the findings are to be reported on at the annual meeting of the Association of Avian Veterinarians next week in Savannah, Georgia. They will also be published in the August issue of Virology Magazine.  Identifying the causative agent will be the first step to developing a vaccine for this devastating disease.

The chronic in-breeding among the captive Spix's Macaws could be helped by cloning with tissue from important "founder" birds. Presley, the Spix's Macaw, discovered in the USA several years ago and now in Brazil, is not capable any more of successful reproductive activity. However, if tissue from him could be used to create a clone or clones, then this could also assist in assuring the future of the species.  Today I heard a radio report that a pit-bull terrier had been successfully cloned in Korea despite the enormous difficulties. The technology to clone birds is probably a long way in the future, but maybe we should be taking steps already to establish a tissue bank for that eventuality.

I shall post any progress on any of the above as soon as it becomes available.

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