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5th Jul, 2022

Stratford swan rescuer's desperate plea as suspected avian flu takes hold

Catherine Thompson 3rd Nov, 2021 Updated: 3rd Nov, 2021

A WILDLIFE rescuer is desperately calling on government agency DEFRA for help with a suspected Avian Flu outbreak in Stratford.

Cyril Bennis, who operates Stratford-Upon-Avon Swan Rescue, says dead birds are piling up after two cygnets were identified as having the virus by a vet last week.

It follows the euthanisation of around 15 birds at Wychbold Swan Rescue in Droitwich, after the virus was confirmed within the centre some days before. The centre has since closed temporarily to avoid spreading the infection.

There are two strains of avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, with one being a lot more severe. And wildlife rescuers in the area are waiting for tests results from the environment agency to determine the strain confirmed in Stratford.

Mr Bennis has since retrieved more dead birds from the river and is at a loss as to how to help those suspected with the virus. He says there’s nowhere he can take them because of the risk of infection.

And on Sunday, he was forced to return home with a swan displaying symptoms and struggling to cope on the river.

He issued a plea for help from vets on social media but eventually took the decision to euthanise the bird himself.

He said: “It was dreadful. He was a good fine beautiful male swan.

“The virus had attacked his nervous system and it had just broken down.

“I took it out to die and I had to stay with it.

“It was heartbreaking because there was no way I could comfort him. I had to watch this perfectly good swan die in front of me.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in my 40 years on the river.

“I’ve still received nothing from DEFRA. It’s quite a serious situation we have here in Stratford. We need some clarity and it’s down to them to give us the situation regarding the virus and to tell me why these animals are dying in front of me.”

Following a request for comment from the Observer, an Animal and Plant Health Agency spokesperson said: “We are aware of a number of swan deaths near Stratford-upon-Avon. These deaths are currently under investigation.”

Meanwhile, Mr Bennis is urging the public not to touch swans and birds on the river, nor feed them to avoid them congregating and spreading the infection.

Avian flu can be contracted by humans although the UK Health Security Agency has confirmed the risk to public health is very low in this case.

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