UPDATE: Dramatic rescue of Thames swans from shock oil slick

UPDATE: Dramatic rescue of Thames swans from shock oil slick

Francis Batt

UPDATE: Dramatic rescue of Thames swans from shock oil slick

A dedicated team gathered on the Thames to rescue swans hit by a mystery oil slick yesterday afternoon.

The team from Swan Lifeline was called out to Windsor soon after 2.45pm as evidence of the slick began to become obvious along the Thames, where it runs parallel with Barry Avenue towards Windsor Eton Relief Road.

The swan sanctuary's treatment co-ordinator Wendy Hermon used its boat to ferry oil-soaked swans across the river to Cuckoo Weir Island where they could be cleaned.

Among the team of dedicated volunteers were 41-year-old mum Jo Webb from Bourne End and 16-year-old Jenna Oxenham, 16, from Windsor, who was doing work experience with Swan Lifeline.

Jo scouted the swans swimming by using a hook to retrieve the worst affected of them flapping and struggling from the river, before carefully subduing them and wrapping them in specially designed restraining jackets.

Soon as many as 10 swans were shivering forlornly side by side on the bank, waiting for Wendy to return in the boat to take them to the centre. About 20 had been rescued as darkness fell.

Jo said: "The oil cancels out the water proofing effect of the feathers and they can literally freeze if not treated."

Jo became a volunteer six years ago. Jenna is studying at Berkshire College of Agriculture to be a zoologist or biologist and admitted she had never expected her 'work experience' with Swan Lifeline to be so dramatic.

As darkness fell Environment Agency spokesman Sam Elfer said that a team had arrived at the river and was laying absorbing pads in the water and special 'booms' or pipes in an attempt to stop the flow.

He said: "The flow may be as long as two miles."

The cause is being investigated.

Click here to see photos of the rescue.

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