14/11/2016
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Sacha Dench ‘heartbroken’ at swan death

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GPS-tagged Bewick's Swan 'Charlotte' in Estonia before she died. Photo courtesy of Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.
GPS-tagged Bewick's Swan 'Charlotte' in Estonia before she died. Photo courtesy of Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

Conservationist Sacha Dench of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) has expressed her ‘heartbreak’ on receiving news that one of the Bewick’s Swans she has been following as they migrate south has died.

Ms Dench, who has only just recovered from an injury of her own, has been following the birds as they travel from Arctic Russia to Britain. She recently reached Poland, where the news of the swan’s death was broken to her. ‘Charlotte’ had been fitted with a GPS collar by researchers who were tracking her progress online alongside that of Sacha. Both swan and conservationist encountered bad weather in Estonia, but Charlotte never made the onward journey.

WWT headquarters at Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, alerted Sacha’s support team, who sent a representative back to Estonia to attempt to find Charlotte’s body, but they had to turn back after two days of snow and freezing conditions.

The news was broken to Ms Dench on 11 November; she commented: “This is such sad news. Looking at a beautiful Bewick’s Swan, you don’t appreciate how incredibly tough they need to be to complete this gruelling journey. I have an engine and a support team and, even so, it’s without a doubt the most physically and emotionally challenging thing I’ve ever done.

“As part of the WWT swan-tracking programme for the last two years, Charlotte gave us an invaluable window into their world. Sadly, you can see on our Flight of the Swans website that Charlotte’s tracker is now just moving up and down the coast with the tide.

“Each year hundreds of Bewick’s Swans don’t make it. We may never know what happened to Charlotte, but it’s important that she doesn’t die in vain. Please sign the petition on the website to protect swans and restore lost wetlands.”

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Written by: Birdwatch news team