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Oil-covered swans rescued after latest Black Country fuel spillage

By Jamie Brassington | Stourbridge | Environment | Published:

Swans had to be rescued after around 25 litres of oil spilled into a Black Country canal.

One swan rescued by RSPCA volunteers

A family of four swans were left covered in oil after a drum fell into the Stourbridge Canal, near the Ruskin Glass Centre, on Sunday morning.

It was the second type of incident to happen in the Black Country within a week - after 38 birds were rescued and two died in Wednesbury.

The RSPCA launched a rescue operation after quick-thinking residents alerted the authorities upon discovering the spillage.

A swan being rescued

It is not clear how the oil drum entered the water. The RSPCA believes it may have been dumped by the canal bank.

Deputy chief inspector Vicki Taylor, from the RSPCA, said: "There was a drum of oil with the cap off which had leaked into the water. There was oil everywhere in one part, it’s really bad for birds because it affects their plumage and they can ingest it when they are preening.

“We were pleased we were able to rescue them and get them to the wildlife centre for cleaning.

“There was a lot of rubbish along the banks, so it’s possible the drum had been dumped. It’s another sad example of how litter is damaging the natural habitats and affecting wildlife.”

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The rescued swans
The Stourbridge Canal where the swans were rescued

The swans were taken to the RSPCA's Stapeley Grange wildlife centre in Nantwich, Cheshire, to be cleaned. There, they will be checked over before being released back into the wild.

Stourbridge and Wollaston Councillor Nicholas Barlow believes the incident was deliberate.

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He said: "I just can't understand the mentality of these people that would want to cause harm to wildlife. It is just heartbreaking, dreadful.

"This was undoubtedly a deliberate act to throw an oil drum into the canal.

"I would urge anyone who sees someone acting suspiciously to report this to police on 101."

RSPCA officers used inflatable boats to catch the swans while the Canal and River Trust used absorbent sheets to soak up the oil.

A swan being taken away on a boat
Absorbent sheets used to soak up the oil

A woman called Su Lowe feed birds with bread in a bid to distract them away from the spillage area, until the RSPCA could rescue them.

It is estimated the spillage consisted of 25 to 30 litres of oil due to the size of the container.

Photographs on social media showed swans stained with a black substance and oil lying on the water's surface.

Kate Riggs, a local volunteer, said: "The response from agencies was amazing, and from local residents like Su Lowe who kept the swan and other birds occupied away from the spill."

Anyone who has any information on where the oil container came from should contact the RSPCA on 0300 123 8018.

To help the RSPCA continue rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals in desperate need of care please visit our website.

Jamie Brassington

By Jamie Brassington
Senior Multi-Media Journalist - @JamieB_Star

Senior reporter at the Express & Star. Contact me at jamie.brassington@expressandstar.co.uk.

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