Humans, or their activities, pose what is probably the greatest immediate threat to our wildlife and environment. The reports that follow are some of the more emotive ones in our library – where people deliberately go out to kill or maim animals, or callously take no precaution to handle a deadly weapon (a motor vehicle) in a safe way. The use of lead shot in angling is perhaps another example of callous complacency, as is the careless discarding or loss of fishing lines and hooks. There are also examples where bureaucratic indifference or rigid adherence to a policy can result in harm to our wildlife. Finally, there is sheer bad luck, where an animal gets harmed by a carelessly discarded item.
February 11th 2005
This is a copy of the statement given by a driver who witnessed an incident which resulted in the death of a female Swan at approximately 12.45pm on 11th February 2005 in Baglan Way, Port Talbot.
The witness is a taxi driver who travels along Baglan Way around 15-20 times a day and, like other locals, is well aware of the existence of the family of swans (male and female with one cygnet) in the area. The swans have been there for maybe eight or more years and are known by a great many people in Port Talbot. There was one passenger in the taxi who also witnessed the incident.
‘On that day all three swans were on the grass verge. As I approached, the female dropped off the kerb, waddled across the road and flapped her wings as if to take off but she never left the ground. I estimated the swan was about 15 feet away from me when she started to move.
A red pick-up vehicle was approaching from the other direction and hit the swan without showing any sign of slowing down. The bird was drawn under the vehicle and then dragged some distance (estimated by another driver to be 20 or more feet) before it stopped. In the meantime, I had stopped and screamed at the driver of the red pick-up the swan was under his vehicle. The only response from the driver was a derisory and scornful laugh (as if to say ‘so what’).
As I was carrying a fare paying passenger, I had to continue to Morrison Road by the hospital, drop her off, take a further booking and returned back along Baglan Way. I was gone from the scene little more than 5 minutes. The red vehicle had gone.
By then 2 other cars had stopped at the scene. A man was on the phone to the RSPCA and a younger man was preparing a sheet for the swan. There was also a woman who picked up the swan – still alive at this stage – and put her on the verge. Almost immediately, she threw back her head and died. Neither my passenger nor I can understand why the driver of the red pick-up did not stop and why he hit the swan.’
Note by Swan Rescue South Wales, 28th February 2006
To this date none of the witnesses have been contacted by the police. Numerous attempts have been made by us over the past year to contact the officer who is allegedly dealing with the incident but sadly and frustratingly without success. Messages have been left with Port Talbot police station for our calls to be returned and to this date, more than twelve months on – silence. The names of the driver of the red van and his passenger including where they work (and even where they were going on that day) are known to us and the witnesses and all this information including statements has been given to the police. What more evidence do they need? A crime has been committed and no-one has been arrested.
Mute swans are protected under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and what happened in Port Talbot on the 11th February 2005 was an act of cruelty – the swan was deliberately run down and killed – the law was broken yet the police have done nothing!
Wednesday 19th October 2005 – SHOOTING INCIDENT
On Wednesday 19th October 2005 five Swans (four adults and one cygnet) were found shot dead on Ty Mawr Lane reen and Broadway reen near Marshfield, west of Newport in Gwent. The swans were taken to West Hatch, the RSPCA Wildlife Hospital near Taunton for the removal of the pellets. So shocked and appalled were the local residents, between them they pledged £3,100 as a reward to the person who came forward with sufficient evidence to lead to a conviction. Sadly, now six months on and no one has come forward with any information – hopefully though, maybe one day someone might find they have a conscience.
At the same time two more cygnets were found dead along Broadway reen. They had flown into the overhead power lines – possibly frightened by the shooting. These low voltage lines, owned by the electricity company, Western Power Distribution, are a particular danger to the swans which use this and the Ty Mawr Lane reen for rearing their young every year. We are hoping the company will agree to fit bird flight diverters along the whole length of Broadway reen. Two days later another cygnet was found dead under the high voltage lines on the other side of the road.
7th November 2005 – ANOTHER SHOOTING INCIDENT.
Sometime between Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning – 7th/8th November 2005 – four adult swans were shot dead on the main reen which runs from Lamby Way parallel to, and south of Mardy Road, on the east of Cardiff. Again the bodies were taken to West Hatch for pellet removal. One swan was found to have five pellets in the head and neck, two swans had two pellets each, and the fourth one pellet. From the type of pellets used it was obvious at least two air rifles had been used. The police are involved with both incidents.
12th January 2006
An incident form from the RSPCA reported a male swan tangled in cord which was described as ‘like that used for a child’s slide’. The cord was wrapped around one leg, both wings and his neck. The swan’s leg was bent back around a tree. Although there was no major injury he was extremely traumatised and subdued. After being freed from the cord he was taken by the RSPCA to a wildlife rescue centre near Chiddingstone in Kent.
It is hoped this will be a warning to everyone who reads this, how important it is to take care when disposing of anything which could cause injury or death to our vulnerable wildlife. That swan would not have survived if it had not been for a concerned member of the public who reported it to the RSPCA.
Sunday – 26th February 2006
We received a call at 8.30am from a security guard working for a firm on the outskirts of Newport. He reported that he had just seen a pair of swans take off from a nearby pond and one of them had flown into a lighting column. He believed one wing was badly damaged. Within half an hour we had checked the swans and it was soon obvious we were not going to be able to catch them both without the help of canoeists.
The next two and a half hours was spent phoning many canoeists living within a six mile radius, eventually ending up with six very willing helpers, and it was arranged we should all meet by the pond at midday. We arrived early and by the time the first canoeists appeared, Peter had already dived in the water and caught the male swan when he came for bread. (At this point please bear in mind it was one of the coldest days of the winter with a gale force North-Easterly wind blowing).
The rest of the canoeists arrived and as usual they all were brilliant. By forming their canoes into a straight line across the water they managed to slowly guide the injured female swan towards the bank and to where Peter was waiting with open arms (he was still in his wet clothes). But despite her badly injured wing, she managed to slip past him and as the canoes moved to stop her escaping, Peter did another imitation of a diving duck and managed to catch her. By this time he had completely lost all contact with his feet.
With both swans safely in the car we had to decide on where to take them and after much thought, eventually agreed it should be West Hatch, the RSPCA Wildlife hospital near Taunton where we have taken birds before. On arrival, the swans were weighed, details of the incident were taken and after a short chat we felt it was time to leave. But something made us go back into the hospital building. As we went through the door a staff member met us with the news they had already euthanased the female swan. She had a compound fracture and dislocation of the wing and it is the RSPCA’s policy that a swan with a broken wing has no reprieve.
It is RSPCA policy
that a Swan with a broken wing
will be killed.
To say the least, we were most upset they should have taken this ultimate step without consultation with us. As far as we were concerned, those two swans were ‘ours’ until we all were in agreement such an irreversible action should be taken. We told them we have a list of people with secure ponds and lakes who have offered sheltered accommodation for pairs of disabled swans. In fairness to the RSPCA staff they were unaware of this at the time – but they are now.
We left and drove in silence for a few miles and then stopped – again we knew we had to go back. We needed to be sure the male swan had been given the opportunity to see the body of his devoted mate so he could ‘understand’ she would not be coming back to him – only then could he grieve and get on with his life. When we, as humans lose someone close, we need time to grieve and our wild creatures must be allowed to do the same. We will never know if the RSPCA has ever considered this aspect of wildlife but we had to make sure and hope this time at least, they will understand and remember next time.
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