Martin Dickinson, from Felthorpe, near Norwich, and his dad George had been fishing at Hickling Broad as part of a week-long holiday on the Norfolk Broads. As they headed back to Potter Heigham, where they are staying, they spotted a black swan with a fishing hook caught in its mouth.
They tried desperately to get help from the RSPCA, calling the charity four times, but were yesterday told that no one was available to help.
In the end, they tried to help the distressed swan themselves. A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said: “The officer who was on was about an hour and a half away and the other officer was quite a way away and wouldn't have been able to do it on her own. We were also holding an animal action week in Great Yarmouth so some staff were tied up with that.“We also needed to get a boat out and we wouldn't have been able to do this before it got dark. We called Keith Glen-West at Water Bird Rescue, a local bird rescuer, and the swan would've been rescued this morning or this afternoon.”But today the Dickinsons' told the Evening News of their shock that one of the nation's largest animal charities was not able to come to the rare bird's aid.
Mr Dickinson, 36, a self-employed tree surgeon, said: “I thought to myself 'I'm not leaving it'. We spent three hours trying to sort it out. I was totally disgraced with how unhelpful the RSPCA was. They said that unfortunately all the people we needed were on a training thing or in a meeting so no one was able to help.
“Black swans are such a beautiful animal to have on the Norfolk Broads and they were unable to do anything for us. I was shocked.”Mr Dickinson said they were unable to capture the swan but he just managed to catch hold of the lure. The lure tore itself out of the swan's mouth and they got the lure out.“The swan was not very happy about me doing it. It followed us back to Potter Heigham,” said Mr Dickinson. “We've now managed to get it to go with the other swans.”He said he had tried to call a swan rescue helpline but got given the same number he had for the RSPCA. He later found out that the hook had been in the swan's mouth for about two weeks.
Black swans are native to Australia and are the state bird of Western Australia. They were brought to the UK as ornamental birds like peacocks and golden pheasants. There have been occasional reports of successful breeding attempts in the UK but black swans have not become established and face competition from native swans.