Home » Last baby swan dies after severe leg injury

Last baby swan dies after severe leg injury

Jamie Furness    September 6, 2023    6 min read   

By Jamie Furness

Forest Lake’s last surviving baby black swan died on September 3, leaving area residents upset and frustrated at what they see as inaction by authorities.

RSPCA animal rescue officer Chantelle Scolari, who collected the cygnet from the lake, said its injuries were irreparable and left the RSPCA with no option other than to euthanise the young swan.

“The foot was severely lacerated, with an open fracture and soft tissue swelling,” Chantelle said.

The swan had also not recovered from an existing beak injury, which the RSPCA had been monitoring for a few weeks with the help of a Forest Lake local.

“The beak injury was still present … [it] was really deep, with the bone exposed,” she said.

Chantelle said rehabilitating the swan was not an option due to the nature of its injuries.

“You can’t amputate the leg of a swan, because it can’t walk then … it wouldn’t survive in the wild,” she said. 

Chantelle said the swan appeared to have been attacked by a predator – most likely an eel.

“The kind of injuries that it had is from something attacking it, we assume,” Chantelle said.

“We have a lot of other waterbirds with similar injuries at that lake as well … I’d definitely say that the eels are a problem.”

The last cygnet with one of its parents on September 2, one day before it was collected by the RSPCA. The swan’s leg can be seen resting on its back. Photo: Daniel Furness.

The Forest Lake community was hopeful that the cygnet would survive to adulthood after watching it outlive the rest of the brood, who did not survive beyond a few months following their first appearance at the lake in July.

The black swan population has been on a constant decline at Forest Lake, with only one swan hatched during the last decade appearing to survive to adulthood.

Local resident Roddy Mackenzie and his wife Nora, who have been closely observing the swans, noticed that the recent brood of cygnets had dropped in numbers overnight on July 14 from four to just two. By August there was one swan remaining.

Earlier in March, another brood of five swans all died within just 10 days of hatching.

On April 19, an adult swan at the lake had to be euthanised by the RSPCA after sustaining severe damage to her oesophagus caused by a fishing hook and line.

Photograph of an adult black swan who died in April 2023 after its neck was strangled by a fishing line and hook. Photo: Christina Pipistrelli, April 2023. 

Roddy said the Brisbane City Council needs to find a solution to make the lake a safer space for wildlife, and reduce the problem of eels.

“The fact that eels can grow in our man-made lake to over one and a half metres long but theoretically cannot escape out of the lake, make them dangerous predators,” he said.

Many Forest Lake residents have been proactively watching out for our feathery friends at the lake, with concerns about the swans and other waterbirds frequently posted to the Forest Lake Community Space page on Facebook.

Forest Lake local Christine Pipistrelli, who regularly advocates for stronger wildlife protection at the lake, says the community has a responsibility to protect wild animals.

“Sadly, [over] the last few years, no offspring of our beautiful swans have survived. We should ask ourselves why,” she said.

Many residents believe the eels are the main source to blame for the frequent deaths and injuries of waterbirds at the lake.

Several have argued that the Brisbane City Council has not provided enough signs to prevent illegal fishing and animal feeding, which stirs up the eels below the surface and can make them more likely to attack a waterbird in a feeding frenzy.

“This will happen every year if nothing is done about the eels and people feeding bread to wildlife,” one resident commented.

Forest Lake Ward councillor Charles Strunk said he was upset to hear from residents about the last cygnet not surviving.

“I have been proactive since this was first brought to my attention by speaking directly with the Chair of Brisbane City Council about issues we are having at the lake,” he said.

“They have since undertaken an audit of signs about residents not fishing in the lake, not feeding the ducks and more – they found that signage around the lake was suitable.”

Some locals expressed that the lake would remain an unsuitable environment for waterbirds to live until the population of predators is reduced.

“The swans should be relocated to a place with less predation to give their babies a chance of survival; the statistics are grim in the lake,” one Forest Lake resident said via Facebook.

Cr Strunk encouraged residents to report these concerns to the Queensland Parks and Wildlife department.

“Unfortunately, Brisbane City Council officers cannot interfere with wildlife in the lake,” he said.

“Residents that feel that a waterbird needs to be removed from its natural habitat need to speak directly with the Queensland Government, Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services on 137 468.

“I would like residents to report these concerns as soon as possible to Queensland Parks and Wildlife who can assist, as they can’t fix a problem that they don’t know about.”

Cr Strunk said to contact the Forest Lake Ward office or the Brisbane City council centre on 3403 88 88 in a situation where a feral or domestic animal is attacking any native wildlife or water animal.

In order to help preserve our wildlife, the RSPCA recommends the following: 

Be on the lookout: if you see a young bird separated from its parents, or come across a sick or injured bird, contact the RSPCA on 1300 264 625, open 24 hours, 7 days a week. 

Don’t approach wild animals: this can scare the parents away and cause them to abandon their young, leaving them unprotected and vulnerable. 

Don’t litter: Each year the RSPCA receives thousands of callouts to animals endangered by litter, with swans and other water birds impacted the most. Dispose of all rubbish and fishing litter correctly, and if you notice rubbish nearby you can help out by putting it in the bin. 

Don’t feed wild animals: this causes them to lose their natural instincts to forage for food and they may also fail to teach their young how to forage for food. It also decreases their wariness of predators, making them more vulnerable to dogs, cats and other threats. Human food is also not suitable for wildlife and can cause them to become ill or malnourished.

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Jamie Furness