Date: 17th January, 2012. Location: Monnow Bridge, Monmouth. Received two calls Tuesday afternoon about this 11.8 kg cob which was in very serious difficulty. He had been rescued from the river and taken to Monnow Bridge Veterinary Practice, where, quite rightly the view was taken dealing with what was obviously a very serious case of an encounter with lost or discarded fishing tackle. Coming from the birds beak was a short length of heavy duty fishing line attached to which was what turned out to be a small fish tightly bound to a triple pronged barbed hook with light weight monofilament. The line could be felt some way down the birds neck, but was obviously held fast by something.
It was one of those situations when there was no need for any discussion as to what the correct course of action should be; to the National Swan Sanctuary at Shepperton – IMMEDIATELY. As always, we phoned ahead advising an eta of about 1815 hours, which was more or less what we achieved.
Within minutes of our arrival, an X-Ray examination confirmed the presence of a second triple pronged barbed hook some way down the oesophagus.
On the strength of this, the in-house vet was called immediately, and preparations were made to operate to remove this hook as soon as possible. In the meantime, large doses of antibiotics and pain relief were administered. It is no exaggeration to say within minutes of this, it was obvious he was starting to feel better as he attempted to ‘chat’ to another very sick bird in the adjacent cell in the intensive care unit.
The operation was long and difficult, but, ultimately successful, ending at about 2200 hrs.Inevitably there was collateral damage to the wall of the oesophagus as it passed through to the point where it finally rested – it was this which contributed to the operation being a lengthy one. What remains, assuming things continue to go well is the prospect of a 2 – 3 week recuperation period.
This bird has a mate, and they are a breeding pair, loved and admired by those who use the Monnow Bridge in Monmouth. The start of the breeding season is not all that far distant. Who could have done this awful thing …? But, as has been said so many times before, we doubt they care anyway.
While this is being typed on 14th June, it actually relates to the follow-up to this story which occurred on 23rd. February when it was clear it was time to return the swan to South Wales; we left Shepperton at 12.50 pm, arriving in Monmouth some three hours later, only to be faced with the worst possible nightmare – a pair of swans was occupying our ‘friend’s’ territory. No doubt there will be those who will criticise us, but be in no doubt we sought to do only what was best for the swan – find somewhere safe to release him, and not immediately precipitate a king sized territorial dispute. As a result, we spent the next two hours, probably covering the best part of another 100 miles before we finally got home ourselves looking for, assessing and finally deciding what was the right thing to do. So, we checked the River Wye at Monmouth, Symonds Yat and Ross-on-Wye, and decided in all cases it was far too risky, What we needed was to be able to release the swan into a ‘flock situation’; this would enable him to sort himself out, and, we suppose, make the final decision to stay, or move on himself. Thus it was that we ended up finally at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park …. Exhausted, or what …?