The RSPCA has launched an emergency fundraising appeal as one of the charity’s wildlife centres prepares for the influx of oiled swans who are being rescued as part of a large operation following flooding in South Yorkshire.

It is believed that 60 swans have been affected by oil after the recent flooding upturned a barge, causing the spillage on the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation canal near where it connects with the River Don, off Rawmarsh Lane in Rotherham.

Part of the oil contamination is also thought to have come from cars which were trapped in the floodwaters.

RSPCA officers have been rescuing the affected swans and transporting them to the RSPCA’s Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre in Nantwich, Cheshire.

So far, 23 swans have been rescued – with officers attempting to rescue the remaining swans today (12th).

Staff at Stapeley Grange yesterday (11th) began the time-consuming task of cleaning the swans.

If oil is not removed from waterbirds it reduces the natural waterproofing in their plumage, leaving them at risk of dying from hypothermia – so it is vital that they are treated as soon as possible.

Lee Stewart, manager at Stapeley Grange, said: “We have had four members of the team entirely dedicated to cleaning the swans, which takes about 30 minutes a time so with still a large number expected to come in, we are preparing for the team to get even busier.

“To cope with the influx of the swans we have had to rearrange rooms to ensure we have plenty of space for them. One ‘dirty’ room houses the swans when they first arrive and a second ‘clean’ room is used after the swans have been washed. They will need 24 hours inside before they are moved outside – unless they need a second wash.

“We have a large task at hand but the team are working extremely hard to help the affected swans. Additional staff are being brought in and our volunteers will also be called upon to do extra hours, to help cover the other animals in the centre freeing up staff to wash the incoming swans.”

The RSPCA has launched an emergency fundraising appeal on Facebook following the large oil spill, with money raised going to the RSPCA wildlife centres supporting the clean-up operation.

Geoffrey Edmund, the RSPCA’s national wildlife coordinator who is helping rescue the swans, said: “All the swans are preening to try and clean themselves but while they are doing this they are not feeding and they will become weak so we have to act fast before this happens.

“The swans are being taken to Stapeley Grange and once they have been thoroughly cleaned they will be able to recuperate and will then be released back into the wild.”

The RSPCA would recommend anyone who sees pollution on water or land to call the Environment Agency 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60. Concerns for a wild animal that has come into contact with oil or other contaminants should be reported to the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency line on 0300 1234 999.

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