THE NATIONAL SWAN CONVENTION
We’re sure all of you will remember our last Newsletter relating in detail to the RSPCA’s method of ‘discarding’ certain rescue groups from their list of contact helpers without giving a valid reason. Because RSPCA management cannot get its act together and decide on the same excuse, they have forced us and others to believe this action was taken in a foolish and misguided attempt to cut costs. We have struggled for the last ten months to be given a sensible and coherent explanation for our ‘dismissal’ but it seems all those in management are incapable of agreeing on the same story. So far we’ve been supplied with two ridiculous and vaguely worded excuses which naturally we’ve questioned in numerous letters to various RSPCA hierarchy but apparently these individuals are incapable of answering questions or responding to correspondence. For an organisation which relies totally on donations from the public for its very existence, this childish behaviour from those in supposed responsible positions, is to say the least extremely unprofessional and unacceptable.
Following the distribution of that Newsletter we received fantastic support from a number of people and as expected, a lot of well deserved criticism of the RSPCA. A few people were concerned about expressing their views ‘on paper’ in case they also were added to the list of ‘untouchables’ so for the sake of the animals they have kept their views to themselves. We’ve now been told this ‘animal caring’ charity has stopped using probably several hundred sanctuaries, rescue groups and other experienced individuals all over the country to whom their Inspectors and ACOs were previously able to take casualties – casualties which they had neither the expertise to deal with, nor the facilities to contain them. Apparently this ‘decision’ was taken because RSPCA management was afraid they might be prosecuted (by whom we wonder?) if a wild creature was taken by them to a rescue centre which was run by someone who did not share EVERY aspect of their rigid and as far as we (and many others) are concerned, very questionable policies, such as immediate euthanasia by untrained staff or providing permanent homes for those which for one reason or another could not be returned to the wild. Such dogmatic and unreasonable policies will undoubtedly have resulted in a huge increase in the numbers of animals being destroyed by the RSPCA when previously they might have had an alternative and very acceptable future with someone who certainly cared more for the animals than this seemingly money-orientated charity, the RSPCA. Bearing this in mind, and for the sake of the animals and particularly the wildlife which unlike domestic animals do not belong to anyone so cannot ‘speak’ for themselves, we feel duty bound to pass these very worrying concerns on to every member of the public we meet, most of whom seem already to be very disgruntled with the RSPCA and readily tell us of their own unhappy experiences.
Please note: we do not include the three RSPCA wildlife hospitals (West Hatch, Stapeley Grange and East Winch) in our criticisms – they have always been most helpful by supplying us with their swan data and we know from experience they care very much about the animals they deal with.
Christmas and the Snow and the Swans. (Ellen & Peter – Swan Rescue South Wales).
Normally we describe ourselves as rescuers, carers and short term holders. In other words, although we have sufficient aviary space to cater for as many as five swans at any one time it is rather exceptional for that to happen, as we are usually able to either release them within a short time or take them on to one of the care centres we use – that is, until the arrival of the severe weather in mid December which continued well into January.
It all began on 12th December with an adult female swan and her cygnet when they flew too close to the overhead power lines above a fishing lake near Chepstow. The swan was lucky and missed them but her baby wasn’t and landed in a heap on the bank. We were told he had damaged his wing but after checking him over we decided he was just bruised and badly shaken so needed to be kept in care till we were sure he was fit enough to be released. A couple of days later we picked up a swan which had been seen wandering the streets very near to Atlantic Wharf in Cardiff. We knew, from our many visits in the past, there was a very territorial male swan with his mate and cygnets resident on the Wharf and we guessed the wanderer was an intruder being ‘shown the door’ very firmly. Eventually we found the visitor, an adult female, waddling along a pavement alongside a busy road quite oblivious to the people who had to step into the road to let her pass, and one or two even crossing to the other side to avoid contact. We managed to release her the following day into a local flock.
A call on 24th December told us a cygnet had landed heavily on the ice at the Knap Lake in Barry and had obviously collided with the surrounding wall. A quick call to our local contact, Steve who was able to catch him and keep him safe till we arrived. He was dazed and very quiet in the car as we drove home. As it was a particularly cold night and we were not sure of his condition at that stage, we decided he should spend the night under the heater in the smaller shed. The next day, Christmas Day and despite the snow and ice, it was up the M4 to the National Swan Sanctuary in Shepperton.
Christmas day brought another call regarding a grounded swan in Cardiff which had been picked up by the RSPCA and taken to the local vet for examination prior to release. Luckily for the swan we were consulted about this because it provided us with the opportunity to check the bird over ourselves. We found he had a very tight ‘chin strap’ and also a sight defect in one eye. To release that swan would have given him a death sentence so it was off up the M4 again. A late call on January 1st informed us of a young swan grounded in a reen on the outskirts of Cardiff. Under the guidance of the caller we eventually found him and he joined the juvenile swan already making himself at home in our pond aviary.
Our next rescue was the following day at Eastville Park in Bristol. A territorial problem had developed when an adult female swan had flown in and was under attack from the resident pair. With the exception of a small area of water at one end where they were, the lake was completely frozen over. The poor little female was half standing and half sitting on the ice just a few feet from the edge so thankfully we were able to catch her fairly easily because she was unable to move quickly and also she was quite exhausted. She weighed just over 6kg and stayed with us for the next three weeks. The same day we picked up a grounded juvenile swan from north of Hereford. He was fine so could be released later the same day into the local flock.
January 3rd – Tredelerch lake east of Cardiff. As with Eastville Park the water was almost completely frozen over except for a small corner kept free of ice by the resident swan family. The problem was an adult female had arrived and was being prevented access to the water by the male swan. Eventually he chased her onto the bank where we were able to catch her and bring her into care. Having three swans already in care and not knowing how many more would arrive, we had other problems as well. With the snow and ice and the slippery pavements, keeping enough bread, corn and lettuce in stock was not easy. It meant several trips to the local shop to buy up whatever bread we could find. Somehow though, we managed.
January 7th – a severely underweight juvenile with a very bad chinstrap had been rescued by our local contacts, Gary and Alan from a notorious lake outside Swansea. The Fendrod Lake has been well known to us for many years for oil pollution and fishing related incidents. Despite the bad road conditions we were able to get him to West Hatch Wildlife Hospital near Taunton. January 10th more ice problems – a family of swans reported to be trapped in the middle of a large lake near Neath . However when checked by our local helpers they were found to be fine. January 13th – Roath Park lake in Cardiff has a fair number of swans and a very large population of geese, Canadas, Greylags and domestic white geese plus an assortment of ducks, coots and lots of gulls so it attracts a great many people who enjoy feeding them. Members of the public are our eyes and ears for birds in trouble and we rely on them to let us know when they see a problem. On this particular day we received a call about a very poorly young swan still very much in his baby brown plumage. Thankfully, the person who rang us had managed to pick him up and wrap him in a blanket. We were not surprised to find this little swan was extremely underweight and in need of expert treatment if he was going to survive. We took him immediately to the South West Swan Sanctuary in Swindon which is part of the National Swan Sanctuary in Shepperton.
January 14th and Alan and Gary were called back to the Fendrod again to another very poorly and underweight juvenile. So it was off to Swindon once more. Another casualty on the same day was a grounded adult swan from Roath Park Lake. We kept him overnight under the heat lamp and decided he should also go to Swindon. However, the next day we were called back again to yet another swan on Roath Park. This time it was a suspect vandal attack or possibly a territorial dispute as he was very muddy and lacked co-ordination so it was another visit to Shepperton. On January 18th we received a message from South Wales Police concerning a badly injured swan under the bank of the River Taff in Cardiff. We knew this would be a difficult rescue as the river along that stretch is steep sided and very fast flowing. With the help of a walker on the other side who shouted to us where to look, we eventually located the swan tucked tight in under the bank. So dressed in a buoyancy jacket, a crook in one hand and one end of a thick rope tied around his waist and the other held securely by two passing walkers, Peter lowered himself carefully towards the swan. With difficulty he managed to use the crook to gently ease the bird towards him and onto the bank until he was close enough to be picked up and carried back up the bank. We took the swan to Shepperton for specialist treatment but unfortunately his injuries were quite severe and he didn’t survive but at least he was given the chance of life and was not immediately euthanased as would have happened had he been caught by the RSPCA although we doubt very much if they would even have managed the rescue at all considering the difficult position the swan was in.
At various times during the next day we received three calls from three different areas of Newport regarding grounded juvenile swans. We guessed the male swan from the local lake in the grounds of Tredegar Park had decided it was time his three babies left home!! All three were a good weight so we were able to release them the following day. January 25th brought another problem. A young swan had crash landed in a front garden on a local housing estate. The garden was very small, surrounded by a low wall and several trees and shrubs. It was a mystery how he managed to land without injuring himself. He stayed with us for several days and although being in the same enclosure with three constantly ravenous juveniles, only a few times did he show any interest in food. Even although he bathed and preened and acted as a swan should, this started to worry us so it was back up the M4 to Shepperton again. We wonder how many of these swans would have been given a second chance had the calls gone to the RSPCA and not to us?
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