Sadly, our site had an outbreak of Avian Flu on the 2nd January 2022, this was devastating for all involved. We will never know how it got onto our site but with wild birds visiting and flying over Cuckoo Weir Island, this was the most likely cause.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) are unsure of the exact incubation period of avian flu but believe it unlikely that any bird we rescued brought it to us as we had stopped rescuing due to the outbreak weeks before we were affected by it.
Sadly, all 27 swans we were caring for at the time had to be euthanised as per the current protocols. The DEFRA vets were excellent and showed a great deal of empathy both towards the swans and our on-site team. They were also very complimentary about the bio-security measures Swan Lifeline had in place (and continue to do so).
The next 4 months saw us undertake the mammoth task of disinfecting, cleaning, pressure-washing, etc. multiple times. This work was all part of the DEFRA protocols that are aimed towards commercial poultry farms in the food chain, rather than wild bird rescue centres. There are so many irrelevant areas that the vets tried hard to navigate with us and we appreciate their support.
The Trustees would like to thank to incredible work our on-site team did over the 4 months, mostly in cold and miserable weather.
We were so happy to finally re-open on the 21st April after a long 109 days closed!
The 2021/22 avian flu season has been the worst on record and continues to be so: There were 5 outbreaks in May (although not local) long after it has usually disappeared. Everyone expects future flu seasons to be worse, so as a charity we intend to push to change/update the DEFRA avian flu protocols with regards to wild bird rescue centres.
We have the right trustees in place to do this and have already started the process. If you feel you can help us in any way, please get in contact with the Chair of Trustees - Dominic Smulders - at firstname.lastname@example.org
On a positive note, this did give us the opportunity to focus on all the jobs that we never get the time to do at Cuckoo Weir, so a lot of painting and mending was done.
Our Chairman was on site several days a week to help and we have learned so much about avian flu that we now have a good relationship with the APHA vets and a much better understanding about how DEFRA works.
Part of the protocol asked us to restock with similar birds (this is not possible with swans!), so we had the only free-range chickens in the UK, which gave us a plentiful supply of eggs during their time with us. Since we re-opened in late April, they have all been re-homed successfully.
If you would like to see just a part of what we had to do, please visit the website address below to view our disinfectant protocols for just one month: