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  • Writer's pictureRae Gellel

Cygnets Brought Back from the Brink of Death

An unexpected and at first, very upsetting rescue occurred this evening.

Two of our volunteers, Darren and Fran, we're waiting on the details of an injured gull for collection. While they waited, they stopped by a local waterway, and by pure chance, happened to spot a dying cygnet on the riverbed, with one sibling already appearing to be dead.

Although we always strongly advise the public never to interfere with an active bird's nest, which may constitute a breach of the law, after seeking advice, the decision was made to remove the clearly struggling cygnet on welfare grounds - to prevent any further suffering and a slow death. Not being prepared for a water rescue, our volunteers only had one set of waders in the back of the car, however, so Darren had to squeeze into Fran's waders, which were half his shoe size!

This at least added a small comical element to an otherwise heartbreaking task. Upon climbing down onto the bank in his poorly fitting waders, Darren discovered that the cygnet that had first appeared to be dead was still clinging onto life - but only just. He was stone cold, on his back, and barely moving. The second cygnet was not in much better condition; both were on the verge of death. Darren gathered both of them up.

Fran tried to keep the pair warm whilst she and Darren rushed over in the car. When they handed me the two cold, twitching birds my heart sank - I had little hope that I could save them. Nonetheless, they went straight in the only free incubator - which was only delivered hours before, and was purchased thanks to your donations - another stroke of good timing.

Even after being gradually warmed, the pair hadn't made a significant improvement. I debated whether it was cruel to continue with efforts to save them, but after some internal debate, decided to persist, and gavage some Critical Care Formula, which is full of electrolytes.

Half an hour or so later and the transformation was miraculous. They were both awake, cheeping, and taking in their surroundings. I continued the gavaging until they'd had 2% of their body weight in CCF. At which point they were up and moving around, preening each other, and drinking of their own accord.

They've been moved under a chick brooder to give them more room for the night, but I am hopeful their recovery will continue. Once we're 100% confident that they are stable and fit to travel, we'll be aiming to send them to the Swan Sanctuary.

It's a really difficult, stressful and exhausting time of year, and finding hope in a hopeless situation such as this really does give you a boost, and some sense that what we are doing is worth it. That Darren and Fran happened to be in the right place at the right time to spare these two from a slow death, also feels like fate was, for once, working in our favour.


And after:

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