Oil spill swans get back on the river

A NUMBER of swans rescued after a dangerous oil spill have today made their return to nature.The swans, which could have faced death, were rescued by the RSPCA and after intensive cleaning sessions are now ready to be released back among their friends who are waiting for them.

A NUMBER of swans rescued after a dangerous oil spill have today made their return to nature.

The swans, which could have faced death, were rescued by the RSPCA and after intensive cleaning sessions are now ready to be released back among their friends who are waiting for them.

A team of rescuers was needed to save 29 swans after the oil spill two weeks ago near Fox's Marina.

The birds became coated in a thick black oil, which not only means they can't spread their wings and fly but they also face death by poisoning when they try to preen themselves to remove the oil.


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But after many hours of cleaning and recuperation, 20 of the swans were due to released at the same site this afternoon. The other nine have also made a full recovery and will be released on another day.

RSPCA Chief Inspector Mark Thompson said the release of the birds followed two weeks of hard work at the East Winch Wildlife Centre in King's Lynn, Norfolk.

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He said: "There is a lot of man hours needed to clean them up after something like this.

"They are washed using high powered jets of hot water and Fairy liquid – and it has to be Fairy, strangely that's the only thing that works.

"Some people don't like the sound of the cleaning but you have to be cruel to be kind and you have to get the oil off of them somehow.

"It is a professional job, this isn't the kind of thing that can be done by volunteers."

After washing, the birds are given time to preen and make sure their feathers are waterproofed again, which is an essential part of their survival.

Mr Thompson said: "They have to be given time to waterproof themselves before they go back on the river.

"The birds preen and make sure their feathers have the natural oils on them, water runs off them like it would a highly polished car and that is essential otherwise they would get too cold."

The release today is a special moment for the all the rescue workers, many of whom go along to releases to see their hard work pay off. The birds are all now fully fit and ready to go back into the wild.

Mr Thompson added: "When you see a bird covered in black tar and it can't fly or open its wings and then it goes back to a pristine white it's a lovely sight.

"We will take them down in special swan bags, open them up and the birds will flap their wings, make a big fuss and then off they will go."

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