Animal lover's heartbreak

DESPAIRING animal lover Lesley Andrews today spoke of her heartbreak over what the RSPCA is calling a major disaster for birdlife.Mrs Andrews also called for a wildlife sanctuary to be built in Suffolk to treat distressed birds and animals.

DESPAIRING animal lover Lesley Andrews today spoke of her heartbreak over what the RSPCA is calling a major disaster for birdlife.

Mrs Andrews also called for a wildlife sanctuary to be built in Suffolk to treat distressed birds and animals.

Her plea comes after she and her daughter Lois helplessly watched while swans caked in oil struggled for life at Levington.

The heartbreaking sight occurred at Loom Pit Lake, Levington, after a pipe cracked and leaked oil in to the coastal waterways.

The leakage was discovered near Felixstowe Port on Thursday and although a boom was put up straight away, some of the 2,000 gallons of oil – believed to be toxic – has washed up at Parkeston Quay, Mistley Quay and at Levington.

"Oil pollution is dreadful and it's heartbreaking that the swans have the added trauma of being carted away in a van, a long way away," said Mrs Andrews, Of Felixstowe Road, Ipswich.

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"We have miles of coastline, inlets and reedbeds where all kinds of water creatures live. It is not just swans that are in danger but many species. It doesn't bear thinking about," she added.

Soon after arriving Mrs Andrews and Lois saw a swan caked in oil and after unsuccessfully trying to coax it to them, Mrs Andrews contacted the RSPCA's emergency number.

"They said they were aware of the problems there and they were on their way," she added. Mrs Andrews and 18-year-old Lois returned to the marina later on Saturday afternoon and the swan was still there but not as lively as it had been earlier.

Yesterday they went back, this time armed with bread to encourage the swan to them and blankets to hold it if they could catch it.

Endangered swans have been taken to the animal hospital at East Winch, near Kings Lynn.

A spokeswoman from the RSPCA today gave reassurances that the swans were in the best possible place and oiled birds from as far away as Belgium have been treated there and successfully returned to their natural habitat.

With the support of the fire service – which provided inflatable paths to the oiled birds – the RSPCA rescued dozens of swans and took 32 to the oiled birds unit at East Winch. Twenty of those came from Levington.

But in the meantime the RSPCA officers had returned and the swan is believed to have been one of those taken to East Winch.

RSPCA chief inspector Andy Mitchell said: "We are expecting more birds to die. It's a major disaster."

The rescue operation began for the RSPCA and Essex fire service on Friday at 3.45pm as the oil spread across to Parkeston Quay at Harwich.

A colony of 250 swans were in possible danger near the Essex port and the RSPCA rescued 32 that were oil-covered between Friday and Sunday. Others that may have needed treatment either flew off swam away.

Felixstowe Port spokesman Paul Davey said containment booms and a vessel equipped with dispersant had gone in to action within an hour of the fracture in Felixstowe Oil Jetty pipeline being discovered.

n Please contact the RSPCA emergency number – 0870 5555999 – if you see any oiled swans.

How the fire service helped the RSPCA in the swan rescue:

A spokeswoman for Essex Fire Service said they went to Mistley Quay at 9.35am on Saturday to give assistance to the RSPCA. Crews had also been called to Parkeston Quay on Friday to help in the rescue bid.

For the first joint rescue operation at Parkeston, the fire crew put a rescue path from land to within reach of the waterborne birds.

"We use inflatable paths or boats in cases such as these and on this occasion the crews put down a pathway for the RSPCA to use.

"Fire service personnel only assist in providing the equipment and leave the actual rescue to the RSPCA," she added.

Saturday's visit to Mistley Quay involved Essex fire crews again but on standby duty as this time no inflatable equipment was needed.

Suffolk fire service was not called out on these rescues.

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