Scores of ducks killed at beauty spot

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More than 50 ducks and geese have been killed in a wildlife disaster at a Sussex beauty spot.

Desperate attempts to save the birds were made by rescuers at Worth Park Lake in Crawley but scores have perished. Others have been taken to a Swan Sanctuary at Shepperton.

John Potts of the Copthorne-based Swans and Friends Bird Rescue said he feared the birds had been killed by botulinum toxins in silt in the lake’s water.

He and his wife Linda have been visiting the lake twice daily for the past 10 days after first being alerted to the disaster.

“We have just been removing body, after body, after body,” said John. “It’s been very stressful, obviously for the birds, but also for us. It has really taken its toll.”

He was first alerted to the looming tragedy when a woman spotted a sickly coot. “Unfortunately, it had died when we got there. We picked up two mallards at the same time and brought them back here and, thankfully, they survived.

“But since then we have been down there every day, checking on the birds and just removing dead bodies. We’ve removed in excess of 50 birds. It’s been very sad.”

He said he thought that there were now only a handful of ducks left at the lake and he called on Crawley Borough Council to de-silt the lake to avoid a similar disaster in future.

“It’s a natural thing when the water temperature rises bacteria send out toxins which the ducks, especially, pick up.”

Warning notices about green algae have been put up around the lake by the council.

Meanwhile, Crawley MP Henry Smith said he was “deeply concerned” about the birds’ deaths and called on Crawley Borough Council for an explanation of how it had been allowed to happen.

A council spokesperson said: “Due to the recent hot weather and shallowness of Worth Park Lake, bacteria that can cause harm to animals and humans have grown in unusual numbers but this should now be reducing due to the change in weather conditions. Rainfall over the past few days will have also have helped to dilute the amount of bacteria in the water.

“We have put signage up around the lake to advise visitors not to allow children to play in the water and to prevent pets from drinking or entering the water at present.

“Anyone who needs further information is asked to call the council on 01293 438000 and ask for Environmental Health. The public are also requested not to feed the birds for the moment as uneaten bread or other food in the lake could make the problem worse.”