Outrage after parent swan’s death at county’s ‘most dangerous’ pond

The swan with its cygnets at Ditchling Common. Photo by Jacqueline Joanne Joy.
The swan with its cygnets at Ditchling Common. Photo by Jacqueline Joanne Joy.

Two cygnets have been orphaned after an horrific attack at a pond branded the most dangerous in the county.

An adult swan was found floating dead in the water at Ditchling Common by workers at East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service (WRAS) on Wednesday August 24.

The team were called to reports that a cygnet had been found with a fish hook in its mouth.

On arrival they found the injured youngster before spotting the adult swan dead.

The charity said it x-rayed the bird and found it had been shot twice with an air rifle, had a fishing hook in its body and had broken its wing.

It has previously said the pond is the ‘most dangerous in the county’.

Trevor Weeks, operations director at WRAS, said he was outraged by the incident.

He said there was an issue with a handful of fisherman who leave behind fishing lines, hooks and rubbish.

“This is not something that’s going to be cleared up through a litter pick, it needs a team of people going into the pond,” he added.

“There are some very responsible fisherman. But if this situation is not going to improve and the council are not prepared to do anything about it they should ban fishing there all together.

“In my time we have had so many calls down to Ditchling Common, it is unbelievable.

“We have had some pretty horrific sites but this takes the biscuit.”

Police are investigating the incident.

PC Peter Hall, wildlife officer for the Lewes District, said: “This poor creature had obviously been deliberately targeted. It was almost certainly as a result of illegal use of an air weapon on the common, compounded by the fact that swans are a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

“Anyone with information about this incident is asked to email 101@sussex.pnn.police.uk or call 101 quoting serial 885 of 27/08.”

The cygnets have been taken to the swan sanctuary in Shepperton.

WRSA has offered a £1,000 reward for any information which directly leads to the conviction of the person responsible for the attack.

Residents have also raised concerns about the state of the area.

Jacqueline Joanne Joy said: “I’m so upset and angry.

“It’s not just swans that get injuries up there, dogs have too from hooks and lines and owners end up with the big vet bills.

“It’s so sad this place used to be nice.”

A petition has been set up to get more patrols in the area.

To view the petition visit www.change.org/p/east-sussex-council-to-sort-out-ditchling-common-and-have-more-people-patrol-the-area-to-keep-it-safe?recruiter=225488661&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=share_for_starters_page&utm_term=mob-xs-no_src-no_msg

East Sussex County Council said it was concerned by the incident and was working with Sussex Police.

A spokesman said: “Any report of injury caused to wildlife is of concern to us. Our rangers carry out regular visits to the park and patrolled the lake on Wednesday, August 24. At that time the pond area was free of litter and fishing line.

“The Sussex Wildlife Rescue Service (SWRS) have since reported that they were called to the site on the same day to rescue a cygnet which had fishing line in its throat. During that visit the SWRS spotted the dead parent swan and removed it. It was later found to have been shot.

“The shooting of a swan is a wildlife crime and we will be seeking advice on this extremely distressing incident from Sussex Police.

“We continue to regularly monitor fishing and litter at Ditchling Pond with the limited resources we have, and would ask anyone interested in volunteering with ESCC to support our work to contact the countryside team.

“We will respond quickly to any reports made to us about discarded lines or litter, and would encourage members of the public to report any concerns they have directly to the Countryside Team by emailing countryside.management@eastsussex.gov.uk or calling 01273 482670. Location details and photographs are extremely useful in helping our officers deal quickly with any issues.”

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