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  • Writer's pictureRae Gellel

Teamwork & Persistence Lead to the Successful Rescue of Injured Goose - Despite Dangerous Location

Updated: May 22, 2021

On Tuesday, we received a report of a Canada Goose with a suspected broken wing at the historic Broadwater canal in Thamesmead, SE28.

Typically a flock animal, the goose had reportedly been alone in the canal for several days, likely unable to follow his companions when they took flight. One wing hung limply at the goose’s side, at an irregular angle, as he stood forlornly in the shallow end of the waterway. He showed no interest in the food thrown to him.

A group of GWN volunteers were on the scene within an hour of receiving the report, but from the offset it was clear that capture would be tricky. The canal - formerly a dock used to test torpedoes as part of the Royal Arsenal military complex - was bordered on all sides by high concrete walls. Entering the water required a short climb, which gave the goose ample time to grow suspicious and prepare for a hasty retreat. By the time the volunteer was ankle-deep in the murky water and had begun to approach, he was already rapidly swimming towards the deeper part of the canal. Due to the increasing depth, it was impossible to follow him or even attempt to block his path without endangering the volunteer. Just how dangerous the canal was however, we would not find out until later!

With the goose showing no interest in food, we struggled to think of an alternative approach, and so decided to get in touch with our friends at Swan Patrol Team SE28, who have strong links with the Canal Team at Peabody, a local housing association which also oversees waterways in the area. Our hope was that the Canal Team might be able to catch the goose using a boat, or open a gate which separated the canal from a far shallower waterway, where capture would be less perilous.

Whilst we waited for a response from the Canal Team and SPT, we decided to make a second attempt around dusk. Since birds often have poor vision at night, we hoped the dwindling light would allow a volunteer to approach the goose without being detected. Before a volunteer could enter the water a second time, however, we received a frantic phone call from the Swan Patrol Team.

They had been advised that the canal was extremely dangerous, due to the shallow water dropping off very abruptly - to depths of around 20ft. A basin-like shape and underwater pumps also made treading water in the canal more difficult. Sadly, it had been the scene of a tragic accident in 2007, when a local man had drowned rescuing a young boy from the water.

Due to this new information, we reluctantly decided to abandon our second rescue attempt. Our concerns for the goose were eased somewhat by the news that the Canal Team would make their own attempt with a boat on Thursday. Since the goose was essentially trapped in the canal by its high walls and his lack of ability to fly, he was unlikely to move from the spot and was also safe from predators. We were therefore fairly confident that he could survive this short delay. Nonetheless, a GWN volunteer visited on Wednesday to check on him and throw down some food, which he again showed only scant interest in. On Thursday, we were thrilled to hear that the Canal Team had been successful in capturing the goose, after an hour-long struggle on a boat. The crafty bird had repeatedly dived under the water every time the boat drew close, making capture drawn out and difficult. Eventually, the exhausted goose was caught, and he gained the nickname Torpedo due to his clever evasion tactic, and in honour of the dock’s history as a torpedo testing site. Since a GWN volunteer had previously christened the goose Daniel, he became possibly the first rescue to have a first name and surname - Torpedo Daniels!

A GWN volunteer had been on standby to transport the goose should he be successfully caught, so whisked him straight to the Swan Sanctuary in Shepperton, which is one of the country’s leading centres for waterbirds. He was initially exhausted from the ordeal of capture, in addition to the stress and likely discomfort of his injury, but with the car heater on full-blast, he eventually seemed to brighten up.

The Swan Sanctuary provides a long-term home for non-releasable and disabled birds, so if Torpedo Daniel’s wing is fractured as suspected, and beyond repair, we are hopeful that he can still have some quality of life, and join a new flock of geese there. We will be following up with the Sanctuary for an update in the coming days.

We are grateful at least that through this joint effort from multiple organisations - the GWN, Swan Patrol SE28, Peabody’s Canal Team, and the Swan Sanctuary - he will not be left to suffer indefinitely in the canal, alone and likely in pain.

Thank you to Chris, Paul West, Paul Elliot, Abbie, Fran, Darren, Lisa, the team at the Swan Sanctuary - and everyone else involved in this rescue!

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