Parrots that were hand-reared by volunteers are among the birds which are to be culled at an animal charity following an outbreak of bird flu.
Wetheriggs Animal Rescue Centre, at Greta Bridge, between Richmond and Barnard Castle, has had to close temporarily after the deadly virus was found in poultry at the weekend.
The centre has been told it will have to cull all its 400 birds, including the macaws, as well as finches, parakeets and poultry.
Terry Bowes, director of the centre, said volunteers found several dead and dying chickens and Guinea fowl on Sunday.
Defra was immediately informed and two vets arrived the same day to perform post mortems and conduct tests.
These tests confirmed the birds had contracted the highly contagious virus.
Terry said the outbreak was devastating for everyone connected with the charity.
“I woke up this morning and thought ‘that was a bad dream’ but then realised it wasn’t a dream.”
However, Terry added they would not let the outbreak stop the good work done by the charity.
“We were having a trustees meeting when the positive tests came back.
“In that meeting we resolved to build back better.
“We’ll do that not just for the animals but also for the many volunteers who work with us at Wetheriggs who maybe have mental health problems or special needs.”
It is thought the birds contracted the disease from wild birds.
The centre had put in place precautions due to the national bird flu epidemic, including disinfectant matts for the public and staff to walk on.
Terry said they were waiting to hear how long they would need to shut for and what restrictions they would face when they reopen.
The closure means they have lost their income used for the upkeep of the surviving animals.
An urgent appeal ahs been launched to raise money to pay for food and the centre’s bills.
To donate, click here.