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Saving Bellingen's Black Swan

Saving Bellingen's Black Swan

Posted: 02-Sep-2019


Earlier this week, a post on the Bellingen Facebook page raised the alert about a well-known resident being in trouble.

"This is the black swan that lives at the Bellingen river," Ellie May Harris wrote. "It has a fishing lure stuck in its mouth. I was hoping by posting that someone who knows how to help it could see it."

But attempts by people from WIRES and community volunteers to capture the swan were initially unsuccessful.

Although he can't fly due to a damaged left wing, he proved quite adroit at foiling rescuers by making an on-water escape.

This morning, all the right circumstances aligned for a successful operation.

The veterinary team from Dolphin Marine Conservation Park were on their way with nets and towels (and as a backup, a dart gun), the swan was resting in the park near Lavenders Bridge, and Ainslie Jenkins, who moved to Bellingen only a few weeks ago, was on guard keeping curious children at bay.

Veterinarian Dr Duan March and vet nurse Kieran Marshall had a brief chat with Ainslie, who has been one of the key people watching the bird's worsening condition and trying to organise help.

Then expertly herding the swan away from the river, the pair managed to snaffle him in a net after a short chase, which you can see in the video:

Pinning him with the towels, they used a pair of pliers to cut and remove the fishing tackle that he had probably inadvertently ingested.

"There was a hook with three barbs on it and one of the barbs had gone in on the underside of the tongue, through the tongue, and was embedded in the top of the tongue, " Duan said. "So we just pushed it the rest of the way through, nipped the barb off, then took it back out the other way.

"He had about 70cm of fishing line going down his throat too, but that came out with the swivel on the end."

Duan said there was no sign of infection and the swan seemed in reasonable condition, so he was happy to release it straight back to its preferred habitat.

He thought the broken wing probably occurred months ago, and the white colour on the swan's left side is visible because the wing would have dragged on the ground at first, removing the black part of the feathers.

Duan said the damaged feathers should gradually be replaced by proper plumage, which will give the swan back his waterproofing but not the ability to fly.

"He doesn't have full extension of that wing, so there's obviously been a fracture. But it's stable now, it's all fibrosed up. And he doesn't really need to fly to be around here - he can paddle on the river and feed."

They were thankful that most of the equipment they had brought - wetsuits, flippers, dart gun - weren't needed

"If he'd got in the water, we could have been chasing him around for hours," Duan said. "And the last thing we wanted was to do was dart him.

"The less you intervene, the better. The motto is, as little as possible, as much as necessary."

Duan urged people to make a point of collecting and disposing of any fishing debris found in or near waterways.

"Fishing line kills more of the wildlife that we see than plastics do," he said.

Upon being released, the swan headed straight for the river for a good long drink and some assiduous preening of his feathers.


Story Courtesy

Janene Carey from The Bellingen Courier Sun 

August 15, 2019 

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I seen Bucky on sash on TV just now. What an amazing spirit. I feel blessed to be kissed by a trooper. Xoxo thank you Greg for sharing an amazing dolphin. I work with Fuji and I am glad we have a photo booth for people to keep the memories. Sometimes it is all you have. I love my kiss picture with Bucky. Thank you for your photo. Paige Sinclair CEO..

Katherine Thompson

This was my last visit to The pet Porpoise pool 35 years ago I was 7. we used to go every year when I was little and my grandmother getting kissed by a seal was the highlight of the day. I loved feeding the fairy penguins and my dream is to one day swim with the dolphins. I would love to win passes to marine magic to experience it again with my family. What great memories Katherine, we hope to w..


My mum and I just spend the whole weekend at Pet Porpoise Pool, we travel from Tweed to Coffs just to see Buck and Zip, we love them and can't get enough. Already driven down 3 times this year, and every time it's amazing. And we loved seeing all 5 dolphins in the pool, Bella's a sneaky little thing! We got drenched by her plenty of times hahaha. Great to hear you enjoyed yourselves - Paige S..

Taneesha Govender

My family and I went to The dolphin marine conservation last September and it was the best experience of our lives! When we watched the dolphin show, there were so many smiles, laughs and really enjoyable moments. After the show was the best part, We got to put our hands in the water and see if the dolphins came to us! When they did, it was so magical, I felt at peace and decided I wanted to p..

Andrew Willis

Thanks again to the Dolphin Marine Conservation park for another unforgettable experience,doing my third in water experience with the beautiful Calamity and the doing an in water seal experience with Adelaide and Maxine,a big thanks must go out to Calamity,Adelaide & Maxine and also the Dolphin Marine Conservation for another unforgettable afternoon. Thank you Andrew :)..

Melanie Weaver

I have not come down from the high of having one of my best days ever! As a 37 year old, I have never experienced being close up with a beautiful dolphin and today my dreams came true. You could not make my smile disappear, I was able to touch and interact with the dolphins and that was just normal entry! I will be back for an experience with these beautiful creatures. I had happy tears for mo..

Sheridan Lockyer

During our recent family holiday in the area the overcast weather lead us to dolphins We took 6 children ranging in age from 7-16 and all of them had a ball One of the children was chosen to play ball with the seal and described it as the best day ever While all of us had a great time and received great customer service I was blown away with the care shown to my family member who is in a wheel..


My daughter (4) and I would like to thank everyone at the Dolphin Conservation Park for the amazing work you do and the memorable experience you give to the public. All the animals are well taken care of, loved and respected. We had a shallow Dolphin private experience in the water with the gorgeous "Jett" and trainer Alice. I can't tell you how much we loved this incredible experience. It wil..

Jessica Higgins

My 3 kids, my mum and I had the pleasure of swimming with Zippy today, the experience was truly amazing. Seeing and touching a real dolphin was a dream come true. When I booked the experience I expected a long safety talk followed by a quick photo in the pool. What occured was the complete opposite. We played in the water with Zippy, each got to hug him individually. Thank you Jessi..

Andrew Willis

I have done two ultimate dolphin experience now the first with Bucky how has now passed on,and the second with his daughter Bella which both were a once in a lifetime experience. Thank you Andrew, we hope to see you again for perhaps your third!..

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