Huge swan rescue effort

Huge swan rescue effort

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Many of the swans have not reached maturity and would perish if not for the rescue effort.

An enormous wildlife rescue mission took place last Friday, with nearly 200 volunteers joining forces to save 171 stranded black swan cygnets from Forrestdale Lake.
Meeting at 5am, 191 volunteers, including Member for Burt, Matt Keogh MP, rolled up their trousers and grabbed a net in the rescue mission that was led by Darling Ranges Wildlife Shelter, Friends of Forrestdale and Armadale-Gosnells LandcareGroup.
Each year, Friends of Forrestdale president David James monitors the water levels at Forrestdale Lake – a popular nesting site for black swans – and alerts authorities if the lake is in danger of drying up.
If the lake gets too shallow, the adult swans abandon their chicks and leave them to fend for themselves, against the elements and predators, such as foxes.
“It takes three months for cygnets to reach maturity before they fly away,” David James said.
“Years ago the lake was a bit deeper and the rescue didn’t have to happen, but what happens now is the lake is a lot shallower, the swans lay their eggs in the spring but the water dries up before the babies are mature and the adults fly away and abandon their chicks.”
“We just give them a second chance at life in another wetland,” he said.
Since starting the rescue mission in 2009 it has become an annual event, but David said that this year the population of swans on the lake exploded.
“On the average year we’ll probably get ten or 20 cygnets, but this last winter was the best winter in over ten years, the lake was very deep, and the swans just took advantage of it,” said David.
According to Armadale Gosnells Landcare Group’s Shane Hunter the population boom was driven by last winter’s heavy rainfall.
“This year the later rain and later cooler weather led to a later breeding season, and now we’ve had this heatwave in January the lake has just dried up really quickly.”
“The call went out last week and it was amazing the amount of people who turned up. People were really keen to jump onboard and help out, which was great,” said Shane.
Darling Ranges Wildlife Shelter’s Yasmin Hunter said this year’s operation was record-breaking.
“I would guess that it’s the biggest swan rescue in Australia’s history, it was absolutely massive,” she said.
“It was a big week last week. We have about 100 cygnets onsite now, and Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre took on quite a few as well,” she said.
Caring for the cygnets is no easy feat, with food for the swans alone costing the centre around $1000 each week.
Member for Burt, Matt Keogh, who waded into the muddy lake with the other volunteers, was glad to see so many people getting involved.
The cygnets that are now in the care of Darling Ranges Wildlife Shelter will spend up to three months munching on fresh grass and other swan-friendly food before being released at a suitable wetland once they have matured.
To donate food for the cygnets, go to darlingrangewildlife.com.au, and to find out more about the rescue mission look up Friends of Forrestdale on Facebook.