Member of the public who encounter multiple dead swans or other large wildlife floating in rivers, should alert the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), or their local Co. Council authority, a spokesperson for BirdWatch Ireland has warned.
A dead swan, surrounded by plastic rubbish, cans and other litter, came to the Tipperary Star’s attention this week. The dead swan was observed lying on a mat of reeds, just meters from a massive pile-up of rubbish in the River Suir, at an area known locally in Thurles as Butler’s Island.
It’s not known if the plastic directly caused the elegant creature’s death, but Niall Hatch, of BirdWatch Ireland, says multiple deaths of large birds is a giveaway that pollution or some man-made cause may be at play.
“There are about 10,000 mute swans, which are the type found in Thurles,” said Mr Hatch. “They have quite a long life span, about 20 years or so. And when they die, they’re more likely to be found. It’s not necessarily suspicious that the swan died there, but there’s always a chance that plastic congestion could have caused it.”
Mr Hatch said they are very concerned about the quantity of plastic in the waters and oceans, and their effects on wildlife. The NPWS are the ‘wildlife police’ tasked with enforcing the Wildlife Acts, and their rangers investigate suspicious cases. While the Riverwalk Swan does not pose any direct threat to people, it could attract vermin and spread some pollution in itself. Birdwatch Ireland regularly receives reports of Gannets and Cormorants choked to death by plastic, causing a slow agonizing death for the creatures.
“Swans mainly feed on vegetation at the bottom of ponds and streams, and they can hoover up some plastics causing long term harm to their digestive systems,” added Mr Hatch.
“A big problem is lead shot from shotgun cartridges which is a very big problem for Swans. They consume some of this as they’re feeding, leading to lead poisoning.” Swans are strictly protected under law, from being shot, and Mr Hatch urged the public to definitely report the multiple deaths of waterbirds to the NPWS, or your local Co. Council Environment Section (1850 365 121 or (0) 761 065000).