City’s swans at risk after lead poisoning incidents at Ripon Marina

A swan recovering at Yorkshire Swan Sanctuary (s)
A swan recovering at Yorkshire Swan Sanctuary (s)

Ripon Racecourse Marina is warning fishermen against using lead weights after discovering a number of swans and cygnets had been poisoned.

Earlier this month Annabelle Bedell, manager at the marina, was forced to rescue a mute female swan in the water before taking it to the Yorkshire Swan Sanctuary.

Once at the sanctuary, the swan was treated for lead poisoning and was put on a drip to counteract the lead. The swan remains at the sanctuary and it is unclear as of yet whether she will fully recover.

Ms Bedell warned that, although the use of lead weights is now banned, some fishermen continue to purchase it online as it is dense and inexpensive compared to other artificial products.

However, concerns remain about the lead being too toxic for the environment and Miss Bedell said it is difficult for marina to prevent the fishermen from using them.

She said: “We don’t allow fishing at the marina because of the boats coming in and out, it’s quite dangerous. We get people trying to fish here and they are told straight away that they can’t.

“It’s quite difficult for us as a community because we can’t do an awful lot about it. We don’t know exactly where they are picking it up but it could be along the riverside or up the tow path.

“The swans are very set in their routines, they swim up the canal, pick the lead weights up, come back here to nestle and then they get ill.

“They are like family to the people are on the marina and they are a big part of the community like pets. That’s why it’s hard to watch them get ill and it’s soul destroying to think there are people using these lead weights which damage the wildlife.”

This is not the first instance of a swan suffering from lead poisoning at the marina. In June, a cygnet was also taken to the sanctuary after it was found struggling to breathe.

Thankfully, the cygnet has responded well to treatment for lead poisoning but Miss Bedell explained the marina is powerless to prevent fishermen using the weights.

Karen Antoncich, who lives on a narrow boat on the canal, helped to rescue both swans and said poisoning would be a ‘tragic’ end for them.

She said: “By the time we had got to her she was on the bank , her feet and wings were paralysed and she was unable to hold her head up, we thought for a moment she was dead.

“The fishermen we spoke to thought that there must be inexperienced fishermen using them – or kids using granddad’s old fishing kit.

“I know that North Yorkshire is one of the worst places in the UK for bird poisoning, its so vital we protect the wildlife on our doorstep.”