Ute crammed with 150 foul-smelling swans after horror event: 'Disgusting'

You might expect saving swans to be noisy business, but they're remarkably quiet. The smell however is another story.

Over 150 black swan babies have been rescued from certain death after an extreme weather event caused their parents to abandon them. Dozens were crammed into a ute, trucked to a central location, and reared to adulthood.

Cygnets started coming into care in November and continued to be admitted until three weeks ago. The problem began after a series of unfortunate weather events in Western Australia, beginning with a rain bomb that saturated the state’s Vasse-Wonnerup System Ramsar Site.

“It was a real deluge and wiped out all the eggs,” Suzanne Strapp, the president of FAWNA wildlife rescue, told Yahoo News.

A ute tray filled with a large number of swans.
Over 150 swans have been driven to their new home in a purpose-built ute. Source: FAWNA

After the devastation, the parent swans returned and dutifully laid more eggs, but by this time it was too late in the season for them to survive. “By the time the wetland dried up there would be no food or water for the birds, and the adults made the decision to save themselves and they flew 50km away to the Leschenault Inlet near Bunbury,” Strapp said.

The rescued cygnets range from two to five weeks old and were unable to fend for themselves. “The trouble with most is their wings hadn’t developed. And if they had developed the birds we picked up had no muscle on their breast because they were too thin,” Strapp said.

Once in care the swans were fed up and later driven to the Leschenault Inlet.

There are no words to describe the smell of the back of the ute. It's probably close to the smell of a pigsty - disgusting.Suzanne Strapp

Why trucking swans is 'disgusting' business

Raising baby swans is no easy feat. It’s not the noise that’s the problem – they make a whistling sound when they’re happy – it’s the terrible smell from their excrement.

Because of the stench created from trucking swans, FAWNA has a special ute funded by WWF-Australia that has a special coating sprayed over its tray to allow for easy cleaning.

Left - swans eating watermelon. Right - swans being set free into the inlet from the back of the ute.
After they are fattened up, the swans are released into Leschenault Inlet. Source: FAWNA

“I wish you could smell the clothes I’m wearing. They smell disgusting and the flies are horrendous,” Strapp revealed. Yesterday, she drove the final group of cygnets to their new home, capping off weeks of exhausting work by the group’s volunteers.

“We wash the ute out every day. We used to put the birds in individual soft carriers and you’d have to throw them out because you couldn’t clean them properly – they’d stink forever,” she said.

Climate change could wipe out Australia's wildlife

This summer has been a shocker with bushfires and a heatwave devastating wildlife, and straining the meagre resources of the FAWNA volunteers.

And it’s not just swans they're helping – volunteers have also attended to dozens of endangered western ringtail possums that have been discovered with severe burns from walking across roof tops, or lying on the ground after out of trees from dehydration.

The worsening effects of climate change are expected to push the team beyond its limits.

“We’ve had the most horrendous heatwave on record. I’d like to hope that this is not what we can expect in the future, but it’s been consistently getting hotter,” Strapp said.

“If it incrementally gets worse over the next 50 years, we’re stuffed, the wildlife is stuffed.”

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