Law lets swans down at Hove Lagoon – again!

Rescuers are frustrated as the law fails to protect two more swans at Hove Lagoon. Two swans had to be rescued over the weekend and volunteer rescues from East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service (WRAS) have been called down to rescue two more swans today, one of which is a possible dog attacked swan and the other which is possibly ill as a result of something in the silt.

Wildlife rescuers are becoming frustrated at not being able to just move the group of swans which are clearly at risk. The laws designed to protect them are stopping their guardians from helping them and keeping them safe.

Every couple of years the man-made Hove Lagoon is drained by the council and without any water to keep them safe the swans are at risk of being killed or injured by dogs. Last week a swan was attacked by a dog and killed and today two more swans have been rescued. The previous drainage of the lagoon lead to two dog attacked swans also and one badly cutting its leg.

"This is very frustrating for us, it is clear that this site is unsafe and we can prove that swans are being injured as a result of the lagoon being drained," said Trevor Weeks, founder of East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service (WRAS).

At the moment swans are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and rescuers can not touch them unless they are injured or ill.

"In the wild if a lake drains due to a leak or naturally due to a draught then the swans will fly off sensing that the water level is dropping. Most of the original 30 swans at Hove Lagoon have naturally flown off too due to the drainage. However, the few which are left are reluctant to leave due to people feeding and the fact that they are inexperienced young swans." explained Trevor.

"DEFRA are saying that they are wild birds and can fly off if they want to and therefore we cannot touch them. However, most of these swans are youngsters and are inexperienced plus with people feeding them they don’t want to leave such a good food source. DEFRA have also said the birds could easily just fly back and therefore there is no point in moving them, but if you move them to another non-territorial flock situation where they are also going to be fed well they are more likely to stay rather then fly back" said Trevor.

"If a swan lands on a public road and is not injured we are allowed to move it to safety, but the legality of doing this is due to the fact that it could cause a road accident and is moved on human safety ground and not for the swans welfare which comes second!" said Duty Co-ordinator Maz Marriot, "I have been down at Hove lagoon every day since the dog attacked swan at the weekend trying to keep an eye on these swans the best I can but unfortunately we have other call-outs to deal with and we can’t be everywhere all of the time, this is really frustrating. Please if you have a dog and walk around the Hove Lagoon area please keep it on a lead and do not let your dog chase the swans."

East Sussex WRAS is calling for a change in the law so that when such man-made situations arise and there are clear examples of the risk to the wildlife then rescuers can step in and move them to safety. There call for a change in the law is backed by Dot Beeson B.E.M from the Swan Sanctuary at Shepperton and by Jon and Linda Potts from Swans and Friends Bird Rescue at Redhill.

"The law is designed to protect birds so that you cannot just go into the wild and catch a healthy bird and take it home and keep as a pet. Unfortunately this same law prevents us from moving healthy birds to safety when they are at risk in man-made dangerous situation like this" said Dot.

"If this was a totally wild lake in wild surrounds and a natural problem we could understand why they shouldn’t be moved, but this is a man-made lagoon, has been drained by man, and is at risk of dogs which man is allowing to chase and injure the swans. The law needs changing" said Jon.

All three organisations are urging people to write to their local MPs and contact DEFRA asking for a chance in the law to allow at risk wildlife in these man-made situations to be moved to safety.

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Press Contacts: Trevor Weeks, East Sussex WRAS, 07931 523958 (private)
Dot Beeson B.E.M, National Swan Sanctuary, 01932 240790
Jon and Linda Potts, Swans and Friends Bird Rescue, 07712 753919

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