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Two swans living at Baffins Pond have been moved to a Berkshire sanctuary following the deaths of several other swans at the site.

Following the recent deaths Portsmouth City Council contacted charity Swan Support to assess the wellbeing of the remaining swans and it was decided the best option is for them to be taken to the rescue centre because of concerns they may also fall ill.

It is not currently known what caused the birds’ deaths and the council has sent water samples to be analysed to try to find out more. Parks staff have increased their visits to the pond and will be monitoring the site daily and checking the behaviour of other wild birds at the site.

Visitors to Baffins Pond are being asked not to feed the birds at the pond at all while the cause of the swans’ deaths is investigated and dog walkers are also advised to keep dogs on a lead to prevent any contact with the water and keep them safe.

One of the birds rehomed was a cygnet and found to have a plastic ring from a bottle embedded in its beak which would have been affecting it feeding. This has now been removed.

The public are being asked to think about their impact on wildlife by disposing of litter responsibly and not feeding them food that is not good for their diet such as bread.

Cllr Ben Dowling, the council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure & Economic Development, said: “The public reported a number of swans had died at Baffins Pond recently so we called in Swan Support as experts and they felt the best option was to relocate the remaining two swans to their centre.

“We’re trying to find out what might have caused the swan deaths. Sometimes you can tell there’s a problem through signs of algae or a lack of oxygen in the pond but at the moment there’s nothing obviously wrong so we have sent water samples to be tested and are waiting for the results and expert advice on how to improve the situation.

“I’m pleased they were able to help the cygnet by removing the plastic ring from its beak but it’s terribly disappointing that we’re still having to tell people don’t drop litter, hopefully people will see what has happened here and realise the real impact they have on our city’s wildlife and environment.

“In the meantime we’re asking people not to feed any of the birds as this may not be helping their health. Bread isn’t good for birds’ diet anyway. Animal welfare is our top priority here and while it’s sad we don’t have any swans at the pond now, it gives us an opportunity to look into the situation and I’m sure we’ll have new swans back in the coming years.”

Several years ago the pond’s fountain stopped operating for safety reasons and to maintain oxygen flow in the pond three aerators were installed all of which are working.

The ponds wetlands area is currently overgrown, this is because usual maintenance couldn’t be completed last year as the pandemic prevented groups of volunteers helping complete the work. The area will be cut back as soon as possible, but legally has to wait until autumn after the nesting season ends.

Anyone who sees a bird that is sick or injured should contact the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999. Residents who notice any other issues relating to the pond should email parks@portsmouthcc.gov.uk

The cygnet at Baffins Pond with a plastic ring stuck on its beak