A RESCUE operation is underway to save around 60 swans following an oil spillage caused by flooding in Parkgate.
The spillage is believed to have been caused by flood water which had upturned a barge near Homeflair, as well as fuel and oil from stranded vehicles seeping into the canal.
Yesterday, a team of RSPCA officers were at the scene just outside Caffe Cristinacce and used a water rescue boat to capture 23 swans.
The swans’ feathers have been contaminated but at this stage the source of the pollutant in the water is not confirmed.
A barge was overturned in the water nearby which is understood to have caused an oil spillage.
However, the flood waters which flowed into the canal following heavy rain on Thursday also washed through cars, which were left parked up or abandoned nearby as motorists were caught out by the rising waters.
The rescued swans have been taken to the RSPCA’s Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre in Cheshire (below), where they will be cleaned and then released back into the wild.
If oil is not removed from waterbirds' feathers, it reduces the natural waterproofing in their plumage, leaving them at risk of dying from hypothermia — so it is vital that they are treated as soon as possible.
Geoffrey Edmund, the RSPCA’s national wildlife coordinator, said: “Initial reports suggested 80 birds had been affected by the spillage but we believe it is around 60 and yesterday we managed to rescue 23 — which is a really good result as they are quite difficult to catch.
“We had to stop due to failing light but we have returned today (Monday) to capture the remaining ones and tomorrow we plan to have two boats in operation to rescue more affected birds.
“All the swans are preening to try and clean themselves but while they are doing this they are not feeding and they will become weak so we have to act fast before this happens.
“All the swans are being taken to our wildlife centre and once they have been thoroughly cleaned they will be able to recuperate and will then be released back into the wild.”
The flood water caused damage to many nearby businesses including Caffe Cristinacce, which faces the canal where the swans mainly reside.
Eve Cristanacce-Travis, who owns the cafe, said she alerted the RSPCA to the incident after she went to the her business to clear-up after the building was flooded with 4ft of water.
She said: “I am overwhelmed by the efforts of the RSPCA, they have been on site rescuing swans and it has been like a military operation. I can’t thank them enough for their efforts. They were wet and cold but have continued to keep up the rescue work and are doing a great job.
“We love the swans and many of our customers come here and then feed them so we are pleased they are getting the help they need. When we came across them on Saturday covered in what appeared to be oil we were really upset.”
The Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust have been informed about the incident.
For more information on what to do if you find a wild animal in need of help visit twww.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/wildlife
The RSPCA recommends anyone who sees pollution on water or land to call the Environment Agency's 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.
Concerns for a wild animal that has come into contact with oil or other contaminants should be reported to the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency line on 0300 1234 999.