Bruges - The medieval Belgian city of Bruges has rounded up dozens of the swans that glide through its picturesque canals to shelter them from the spread of bird flu.
France, the Netherlands and Denmark have already begun chicken culls after cases of the virus, and Belgium has detected an outbreak among wild birds.
Protective measures have been taken in poultry farms, but the situation is more complicated in Bruges, where the swans are usually free to roam.
"All the swans have to be taken, and it is not so easy to take them." mayor Dirk De fauw told AFP.
Countries affected by the re-emergence of bird flu in western Europe
"We have to take the swans out of the free spaces of the city and keep them safe in a place where they can hide from birds coming from everywhere and birds who are sick."
The city prepared for the operation by halting feeding the swans for five days.
When grain was finally produced, municipal workers pounced and bagged the birds for transport to a protected reserve.
France and Denmark confirmed bird flu cases on Monday, days after an outbreak in the Netherlands triggered a massive cull.
In Bruges, swans are also under lockdown over bird flu outbreak
Hundreds of hens were killed after the virus was detected in a garden centre on the French island of Corsica, and the Danes said more than 25,000 birds would be slaughtered after the virus emerged in the west of the country.
France has ordered national protection measures including obligatory confinement of poultry to isolate them from wild birds, while Denmark has suspended exports of eggs to chickens outside the EU.
The virus, which is not harmful to humans but is potentially devastating to the farming sector, has so far appeared in Belgium, the Netherlands, Russia, Ireland and Britain among other countries.
Dutch officials said earlier this month they had culled more than 200,000 birds.
Duck breeders in southwestern France have been hit twice in recent years, sparking mass culls that cost producers hundreds of millions of euros.
French officials insisted there was no need for people to change their habits.
"The consumption of meat, foie gras and eggs - and more generally of any food product - does not present any risk to humans," the ministry said.
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Denmark urged farmers to ensure the birds were protected from possible infection.
The Danes recently slaughtered millions of mink after some were found to be infected with the novel coronavirus.