April 10 turned out to be a very Good Friday for a swan rescued by the RSPCA in Pwll after swallowing fishing litter.
Rescuers from the animal welfare charity were alerted after the troubled swan was spotted with fishing line protruding from his beak, by a member of the public.
Animal collection officer (ACO) Ellie West headed to the lake in Pwll, and was able to rescue the swan – but no fishing line or hook was visible in his mouth.
The swan spent the night at a local rescue centre, before being transferred to a Pembrokeshire veterinary practice for an X-ray. This found a barbed hook behind the larynx of the swan – something the RSPCA say “further highlights the immense dangers of discarded fishing litter”.
The veterinary practice was unable to operate, as the swan’s condition required specialist equipment and a flexible endoscope. The swan was rushed to the RSPCA’s Bristol Clinic, who were able to safely remove the hook and nurse the bird back to health.
Fortunately, despite the ordeal, the swan was safe to be transferred back to the lake in Pwll on Easter Sunday (April 12). He was released by RSPCA inspector Gemma Cooper – ensuring a dramatic holiday weekend concluded with a happy ending for the wild animal. Heart-warming video footage captures the moment that the swan was returned to the wild.
Restrictions on people’s lives and activities during the coronavirus outbreak means hobby fishing should have stopped at this time – and this case could therefore show the prolonged danger that discarded fishing litter poses to Wales’ wildlife.
This swan is one of two rescued by RSPCA Cymru officers from fishing litter in a matter of days – following a similar rescue in Crumlin on Wednesday (15 April), which has prompted the animal welfare charity to re-issue advice on preventing such incidents.
ACO West said: “This was a pretty dramatic Easter weekend for this stunning swan. Nevertheless, we’re delighted a good Friday turned into an even better Sunday, with the swan safely rescued, treated and released over the holiday.
“Fishing litter can be so problematic and even fatal for birds. Once again, this incident highlights that a minority of irresponsible anglers can place animals in serious danger.
“The staff at our Bristol Clinic were amazing. This was quite a complex procedure – but they were able to release the hook from behind the swan’s larynx and make sure he was safe and well for a quick return to the wild.
“We’re so grateful to the member of the public who spotted this swan and sounded the alarm. The fact this bird actually swallowed a barbed hook further highlights the immense dangers of discarded fishing litter, and I dread to think what would have happened had we not been called to intervene.
“Though we don’t know when this fishing litter was discarded; given restrictions on everybody’s lives at the moment it seems very possible it has been around for some period of time.
“When normality returns, we urge those fishing to follow the Angling Trust’s Take 5 campaign and make use of the recycling scheme to dispose of their waste tackle and line. Fortunately, we know most anglers are really responsible and keep ponds and lakes clear of such dangerous debris.
“It’s great we could rescue this swan and return him to where he belongs – the wild. However, these are really tough times for the RSPCA at the moment, and our animal rescue teams are under immense pressure. We’re asking the public to consider donating what they can, to keep the RSPCA on the road and delivering an emergency response to animals like this swan.”
Hannah James, who spotted the swan’s plight and contacted RSPCA rescuers to help, said: “These swans live at the back of our house, and we’ve always fed them and kept an eye out for them.
“One day, I noticed one of the swans with fishing line coming from his mouth. We took a closer look and clearly something was wrong.
“The RSPCA were great and came out so quickly after we called them.
“I was initially quite distraught, as the female swan flew away after the male swan was taken for treatment. But she returned very quickly after he was brought back – we’re delighted this was a happy ending. It was a very emotional situation.
“This is such a lovely spot to take daily exercise during the coronavirus crisis, so near to our home. We were lucky enough to be able to see the release of the swan back to the lake by the RSPCA. We’re just so happy the swan is back, and is safe and well.”
During this difficult time, the RSPCA’s priority is to help animals most in need. Please visit the RSPCA’s website for advice, information and support.