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Queen's swans fall prey to mink attacks.

Wild mink are slaughtering the Queen's swans, while young cygnets have also become victims of vandals and irresponsible anglers, according to the Queen's Swan Marker.

As David Barber set out on his annual, week-long trip up the River Thames to take a census of the swan population, he said the regal waterbirds had a new and vicious predator.

'There have been many reported fatalities, a high proportion of which have been the result of mink attacks,' said Mr Barber.

'Mink are on the increase throughout the Thames area and young cygnets are extremely vulnerable.'

He added: 'Many reports have been received of vandalism this year. The majority of incidents involve the destruction of nests and eggs.

'Fishing hooks and line are a significant factor in the injuries and deaths of many young cygnets. Discarded fishing tackle poses a severe threat of drowning, and ingested hooks and line cause immense suffering which often results in death.'

Swan Upping, the annual census along stretches of the Thames, was expected to show a decline in the swan population, said Mr Barber.

'There has been a slight decrease in the number of breeding pairs nesting this year, although the size of the broods has been high,' he said. The five-day swan census was starting at Sunbury-onThames and ending at Abingdon, Oxfordshire on Friday.

Schoolchildren were accompanying the swan uppers as they carried out the swan count and health checks.

The Swan Upping ceremony dates from the 12th century when the Crown claimed ownership of all mute swans. Nowadays, the Crown retains the right to ownership on some stretches of the River Thames. The Queen's Swan Marker, accompanied by the Swan Uppers of the livery companies, use six traditional Thames rowing skiffs.

By tradition, they wear scarlet uniforms and each boat flies appropriate flags and pennants.

Cygnets are weighed, measured and checked for injury. They are then ringed with individual identification numbers by the Queen's Swan Warden, Professor Christopher Perrins of Oxford University.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 14, 2003
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