Graphic Video Release after Distressing Swan Rescue at Ditchling Common

A graphic video of a swan being rescued and a fishing hook being removed from the swan’s tongue has been released by a wildlife charity after branding the lake at Ditchling Common Country Park as the worse place in East Sussex for discarded fishing line, hooks and number of wildlife rescue calls relating to fishing line and tackle.

“The lake is the worse place I know for tackle incidents and is one of the most dangerous locations for water fowl” said Trevor Weeks MBE founder of East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service (WRAS), “in the past twelve months we have responded to more than 25 incidents, of which the majority of them have been related to fishing line and tackle.  There have also been numerous incidents relating to dogs attacking and injuring swans too.”

On 2nd June 2016 WRAS received 6 phone calls after walkers at the park reported seeing a swan with blood on its body and a fishing hook in its mouth.

Three experienced rescuers, two trainee rescuers in three ambulances attended on site to deal with the rescue and to ensure the capture was swift.

Rescuer Kathy Martyn of Uckfield and Chris Riddington from Eastbourne, led the rescue drawing the swan and three cygnets close to the back.  Rescuer Trevor Weeks MBE on the opposite back of the stream provided back up in case the capture failed.

“We could see the hook in the swans mouth and line wrapping round the body and also attaching to the cygnets. Using bread we managed to build up the swans trust and Kathy managed to catch one of the cygnets, the parent was not too happy about this and eventually started trying to get out of the water allowing Chris to catch and secure. The remaining two cygnets were then swiftly caught and secured. Trevor then joined us and checked over the swans. The other parent has not been seen for a few days so the cygnets had to be taken in to care along with this lone parent” said Chris.

A large carp hook was embedded in the tongue of the parent swan. “The hook was so well embedded that I was not able to treat on site so we called our vet Mike Symons who met us back at our Casualty Centre at Whitesmith to help” explained Trevor.

Vet Mike was able to remove the hook, which was deeply embedded in the tongue,  by using a local anaesthetic and wire cutters.   “It was not the easiest hooks to remove, and there was a risk of catching a blood vessel which could have been life threatening, so it had to be a very careful procedure” explained Trevor.

WRAS has released a graphic video of the swan rescue and the removal of the hook from the swan’s mouth to show the extent of the damage and the trauma the swan has been put through as a result of the discarded line and hooks at Ditchling Park.

“We hope that people are shocked by this footage and that it discourages irresponsible fishing not just at Ditchling Common but elsewhere in East Sussex too. These types of incidents are way more common than they should be. We know the swan has not flown in with the hook on as she has been present looking after the cygnets for several weeks. The amount of line and hooks in the water, caught in bushes and in trees is horrendous and not difficult to find. We have mention the problem several times when we have received calls from the council but no one seems to be interested in doing anything. If the pond is not going to be looked after or managed properly or fished responsibly then the fishing should be banned, which is a shame for those who fish responsibly. It is laziness, selfishness and inconsideration on behalf of irresponsible anglers that leads to this amount of line and hooks being discarded” said Trevor.

In January a young swan had to be rescued at Ditchling Common lake after being reported as having a problems with its neck. Rescuers Dave Novell, Trevor Weeks and Chris Riddington had to use dry suits and a boat in order to separate the young swan from the parents and encourage it into the narrower inlet stream and catch it using a net. The swan had fishing line under its jaw which was pulling tightly down its throat, plus a swelling low down at the base of the neck. “It was a nightmare working in the lake as every step we took you could feel line under the water which was trying to trip you up. After the rescue I found two fishing hooks caught in my dry suit too. This is the worse site I know for discarded line, hooks and waterfowl encountering problems” said Trevor.

“Something needs to be done to clean up the pond, make it safe for wildlife and for the site to be patrolled better ensuring that either no fishing or only safe angling takes place to avoid the suffering of our local wildlife” added Trevor.



If you wish to use the video please consider making a donation to WRAS – invoices can be provided if necessary.

In order to use the video East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service must be credited.

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