A team of seven rescuers had an early morning start today (17 May) in order to catch, treat and release eight, two-week old cygnets at Hampden Park’s Decoy Lake in Eastbourne.
Starting at 6am rescuers from East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service (WRAS) met at the park in an attempt to catch, treat and release the cygnets after the previous three broods of cygnets had experienced a high parasite burden, which caused all the cygnets to need rescuing each year and several fatalities due to the heavy parasite burden.
“The cygnets are suffering from a naturally occurring environmental parasite which lives in water and silt. For some reason at this site, it is hitting the cygnets hard each year as it builds up in their bodies. The adults seem to be able to cope with it but the cygnets suffer each year. Local residents, councillors, and ourselves have been very worried about the cygnets after losing so many and having to rescue the last three broods” said Rescue Co-ordinator Trevor Weeks MBE founder of East Sussex WRAS.
Rescuers sought advice from the Swan Sanctuary at Shepperton and contacted Natural England and everyone agreed on an ambitious plan to catch and treat the cygnets and release them back to their parents in the hope they don’t have to be taken away yet again. “We are not aware of anyone having done this before, and we don’t know how effective it will be either. Normally you would give three doses a week apart but it is not feasible to be catching the cygnets three times and probably too stressful too” added Trevor.
Rescuers Amy Sandiford and Dave Earl in boats, Trevor Weeks and Chris Riddington in dry suits, and Kathy Martyn plus Katie Nunn Nash on the bank with nets, managed to encourage the family of swans into a narrow channel of water behind one of the islands at the lake. Wading from either end of the channel, Trevor and Chris managed to corner the cygnets and catch them all swiftly using nets and passed them to Kathy on the bank. “Mum followed us away from the water not wanting to leave her babies, so we caught her and secured her with her young. Dad on the other hand was keeping his distance but several times tried to challenge us. They are very good and dedicated parents which makes us even more keen to help the cygnets stay healthy so we don’t have to rescue them later on” explained rescuer Kathy Martyn of WRAS.
“I secured mum whilst Kathy, Dave and Katie checked the cygnets over one by one, weighing them so WRAS’s Vet Mike Symons could inject them with a wormer which is best suited to get rid of the parasite in their little bodies” said rescuer Chris Riddington.
“The cygnets were in good condition for their age, and didn’t seem bothered by all the fuss. Mum and dad on the other hand were not too pleased. Amy and Trevor had to ensure that dad didn’t cause us any problems whilst we were treating the cygnets” said Rescuer Katie.
“It was a really good team effort, and went better and more smoothly than we hoped. We appreciate Eastbourne Borough Council allowing us to undertake this mission as we know that they have been very worried about the swans over the past few years. We plan to now monitor the situation and we will be undertaking faecal analysis at the park to see how the parasites are effecting the cygnets” said Trevor.
Once treated the cygnets and mum were returned to the water’s edge and released to swim off and hopefully stay as a family this year.
“It was really nice to see them swim off together as a family and we sincerely hope they stay as a family and that we don’t have to rescue them again” added Trevor.