RSPCA rescues birds from oil catastrophe

RSPCA officers are continuing to rescue ducks and moorhens from a pond after a drum of hydraulic oil was dumped in the water earlier in the week.

The RSPCA was called on Monday (24 November) evening after around 80 birds were found covered in oil at the pond in Wotton Drive, Ashton-in-Makerfield, Wigan.

A rescue operation involving a team of officers began first thing on Tuesday morning when 15 ducks were removed, mostly from the area around the water.  A further 15 ducks were removed on Wednesday as well as one moorhen. Sadly one duck and a moorhen had already died and another duck had to be put to sleep later.  Another eight ducks were removed yesterday (Thursday).

The operation is still continuing, but is becoming increasingly difficult as the birds are taking cover in bushes and brambles.  They are mostly still able to fly so are hard to catch which is a source of worry for officers who fear that, as the weather grows colder, the birds may become more ill as the oil affects their natural waterproofing, leaving them susceptible to the cold.

RSPCA animal collection officer (ACO) Derek Hampson has been at the pond every day this week.  He said:  “We are very concerned about the remaining birds and are trying to reach them as soon as possible but there are still as many as 50 to 60 at the location.

“Dumping this oil drum was hugely irresponsible and we hope that whoever is responsible will be caught. We cannot thank Wigan Council enough for their swift action in getting booms onto the water and conducting a clean-up operation.  One of their team even helped us to rescue birds on Tuesday.  However, it will be quite some time before all the oil is cleared.

“I am now hoping that we can get a pen out there to lure the ducks into as they are so difficult to catch.  All of them have some degree of oil on them so we need to catch them as soon as we can.  As well as the waterproofing, they try to preen themselves which causes extra problems as they ingest the oil.”

The birds are being taken to the RSPCA Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre in Nantwich, where they are being thoroughly washed and dried. 

Lee Stewart, Stapeley Grange manager, said:  “All the birds brought to the centre have been washed and are now clean.  They are settling into their new accommodation and some are already recovering outside in one of the dedicated oiled bird pools. 

“We will get them back into the wild as soon as a new release site has been found.  These are the lucky ones, not all of the others may be so fortunate.”

To find out how to help the RSPCA rescue animals such as these please text HELP to 78866 to give £3 (texts cost £3 plus one standard network rate message).

RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex RH13 9RS
Press office direct lines: 0300 123 0244/0288  Fax: 0303 123 0099
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