Rescue mission to save Eastbourne cygnets

Cygnets rescued from Decoy Pond on August 15. Pictures supplied by WRAS
Cygnets rescued from Decoy Pond on August 15. Pictures supplied by WRAS

Volunteer rescuers rushed to an Eastbourne pond this weekend to rescue sick swans.

East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service (WRAS) went to Decoy Pond, in Hampden Park, after reports of swans looking unwell yesterday morning (August 15).

Cygnets rescued from Decoy Pond on August 15. Pictures supplied by WRAS

Cygnets rescued from Decoy Pond on August 15. Pictures supplied by WRAS

“On arrival mum and two cygnets were near the bank, but the cygnets were showing little interest in eating the bread,” said a spokesman.

“As (volunteers) Chris and Kathy kept the waterfowl distracted, I managed to creep up behind them and net one of the cygnets. I was expecting way more resistance and a much quicker reaction, but I caught him really easily. I was surprised at how light he was” said Trevor Weeks, one of the volunteers.

The others were then caught relatively easily.

“You just shouldn’t be able to catch cygnets that easily, this made me very concerned for their welfare” said Kathy Martyn.

Cygnets rescued from Decoy Pond on August 15. Pictures supplied by WRAS

Cygnets rescued from Decoy Pond on August 15. Pictures supplied by WRAS

The group said this was the third group of cygnets in a row that had suffered problems at the pond.

“It is believed the problem is being caused by a parasite which lives in the silt at the bottom of the pond,” said a spokesman.

“The parasite primarily affects swans which are filter feeders and reach lower down into the water and silt than duck can.

“The parent birds seem strong enough to cope with the parasite but every year cygnets are being lost to this problem.”

According to the group, last year Eastbourne Borough Council sent a dead cygnet off to the swan sanctuary at Shepperton for a postmortem which revealed a very heavy parasite burden.

Just over a week ago a cygnet was found dead at the pond, but the weight was not too low and cause of death was not obvious.

However reports on Thursday night (August 13) and yesterday morning prompted rescuers to assess their condition again which resulted in their rescue and transportation to the swan sanctuary for urgent specialist veterinary care.

According to Trevor, the smallest cygnet rescued yesterday died this morning (August 16).

“People have been asking us why we can’t step in sooner, but the problem we face is that we can’t legally step in until we have evidence that there is a problem with those actual cygnets or we could be committing an offence,” he said.

“However we are going to approach Natural England to see if it is possible to obtain a licence to step next year and catch them and assess them earlier on site with the help of our vet.

“Sadly the law which were designed to keep our wildlife safe also prevent us from being proactive in these situations at times, but as this is the third time in a row we hope this will add weight to our case.”

The group thanked Eastbourne Borough Council, local councillors and the Friends of Hampden Park for their support and co-operation in looking after the cygnets at Decoy Pond.

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