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I am writing you to gather suggestions and advice about a
discovery I made while living in the South Pacific for several
years about a Polynesian way to prevent (and treat) bird flu
in chickens and wild birds. This practice is also helpful
for minimizing diseases of all kinds being transferred between
chickens, pigs, humans—and yes, rats.
By observing the Polynesian way nature has evolved to keep
the ecosystems of tiny islands safe from being wiped out by
diseases, I thought that doing the same in our farms and wildlife
refuges would be a very effective way to naturally prevent
the spread of diseases like bird flu.
Here's my story: I recently returned to the states after
living for two years of in Pohnpei, Micronesia. There, I had
the good fortune to experience a system already in place (by
nature) for migrating birds to protect themselves from diseases
when they arrive on the island, and for the local population
of birds to protect themselves from possible disease that
the migrating birds could be carrying with them on their migrations.
I also had the good fortune to experience first-hand the
local practice of using a medicinal plant to treat the birds
in a shipment of chickens (supposedly from China), which now
when I read about it, I am certain had Avian Influenza.
In a "belt" around the island, just inland of the
mangrove swamps, is a thin strip of salty land. It is brackish
but not waterlogged, and gets a renewed influx of water with
the tides. Growing on this land is a grove of trees that we
called "weipwul." This literally means "hog
pineapple." The same fruit is commonly known as "noni"
in the U.S.
When the migrating birds first land on the island, they have
been flying for thousands of miles over open ocean. They are
exhausted, thirsty and energetically spent—good candidates
for catching any kind of diseases that might be on the island.
However, they spend the first few days eating the fruit of
the weipwul trees. During this time they are rehydrated, re-energized,
and, it seems, given an immune-system support that protects
them from whatever diseases might be in the local population
of birds, pigs, people—and yes, rats—that they
will be exposed to.
This zone serves as a natural quarantine and re-energization
center for birds that come into the island. Now when birds
come onto the island by-passing this natural quarantine zone
(like a shipment of chickens from China sold in the market),
the local people expect them to be sick.
Historically, the people only got "shipments" of
chickens when a boat washed up on the shore. Those chickens
were seen as valuable treasures because they had "medicine"
in their bodies. Local people saw that these new birds, when
bred with local birds, could treat the diseases that otherwise
"couldn’t be treated."
What the locals are talking about here is genetic diversity.
Inbreeding causes genetic disease. Every once in awhile, when
they are blessed with new chickens, they can break the cycle
of the genetic diseases that have begun to manifest. So, knowing
this [historical benefit of new birds] explained why the shipment
of very sick chickens wasn't rejected by the local market.
And, learning about the weipwul/noni effect explains why the
villagers didn't seem to be concerned that the chickens were
But at first I wondered: Why would you take sick chickens
home and risk introducing disease into your healthy chickens?
I asked a friend of mine, a traditional elder. She said that
they were unconcerned because "they knew how to treat
this disease." Further, as long as the person handling
the chicken is also eating the weipwul fruit, then they are
also protected from contracting this disease while working
with the chicken.
With this explanation I asked her to show me how it’s
done. We went to the market and got a really sick one (the
only one that they had left, with feathers falling out, purple
skin, sores, oozing eyes and beak, that no one else wanted)
and we proceeded to treat it. We force-fed the chicken pureed
fruit for awhile, then when it got enough strength back to
hold its head up, we let it eat on its own.
After about 18 hours, it seemed totally revived, with no
signs of AI illness (such as oozing eyes or purple skin),
and its sores had begun to heal. So, we let it run around
with the other free-range chickens and noticed that it frequently
ate the weipwul off of the ground as its food of choice. Within
three weeks, its feathers had grown back and we couldn't distinguish
it from the others.
It is now my thinking with all of this hype and scare about
bird flu, with real or imagined risks, that we can do the
same kind of thing here in the states around our free-range
chickens on the poultry farms. We can set up something like
a "quarantine belt" around our chicken farm "islands"
by feeding the chickens the fresh/frozen pureed fruit as a
way to protect the local population of chickens from the diseases
that the migrating birds may be carrying with them. Likewise,
if possible, we can somehow get this fruit into the diets
of the migrating birds on wildlife refuges.
I've made contact with a supplier of this fruit who can ship
it to whomever needs it in the form that I want it in (as
close to fresh as possible), as a fresh/frozen puree. This
can be put into the chicken feed, and the wild bird feed (if
Let me know what farmers think about my suggestions, and
please give me any advice you have. Thank you in advance.
PS: Brad Stufflebeam of Wesley, Texas, is working to connect
farmers, cooperatives and organic feed suppliers to a high-quality
supply of the frozen noni fruit, and can be contacted by email
You saw first-hand the effectiveness of this plant and the
way it serves birds and humans on this island. There are many
www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/noni/worldwide_names_13.asp for this
crop, which has many traditional and contemporary medicinal
The traditional role of the noni (Morinda Citrifolia) is documented
with full botanical background, and here www.consumerhealth.org/articles/display.cfm?ID=19990303205600
in greater medical detail.
The weipwul/noni tree is included in a USDA-SARE farm profile
as part of an integrated agroforestry enterprise in the Northern
A wild fruit that combats this deadly virus would be a confounding
development, and perhaps provide insight into how else birds
and people might boost their immune systems in similar ways.