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Rare geese stolen and killed; Horror discovery.

Byline: SOPHIE DOUGHTY

CRUEL thieves have abducted and killed a pair of rare birds, just as they were preparing to breed.

The distinctive Cape Barren geese were taken when wildlife thieves breached the perimeter fence at the Washington Wetland Centre. And one of the missing birds was later found dead in nearby woodland.

Staff at the wildlife reserve have been left sickened by the senseless crime, which has robbed them of their first and only pair of Cape Barrens.

And the loss will also sadden regular visitors to the centre, who were watching the beautiful geese begin their courtship rituals, and had hoped to see them nest and lay eggs this year. Today police are appealing for witnesses to the theft, which is being linked to the slaying of a wild swan, which was found dead at the reserve last week.

Jane Ramshaw, manager at the Washington Wetland Centre, said: "We are devastated by the loss of our Cape Barren geese, which were hugely popular with our members and visitors.

"Their beautiful colouring and unique call, similar to that of a pig grunting, made them very distinctive and we were hopeful that they would breed this season, as they had been displaying courtship behaviour. "We are co-operating with local police and can only hope that the perpetrators are brought to justice."

Staff at the Wetland Centre, which is home to a variety of exotic waterbirds and rarely seen wildfowl, discovered the birds were gone on Saturday morning.

But they have no idea how the thieves got into the reserve, which is protected by an electric fence.

And why they chose to steal the geese and kill one remains a mystery. Cape Barren geese originate in Australia.

But this pair were brought to Washington from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust's national headquarters.

And it had been hoped that they would soon become parents to the first Cape Barren goslings born in Washington.

A Northumbria Police spokesman said: "Police are appealing for witnesses after two geese were stolen from a wildlife centre in Washington.

"It happened at the Washington Wetland Centre, operated by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, between 4.30pm on Friday and 9.30am Saturday. "The geese which were stolen are Cape Barren geese. One was later found dead at Barmston Pond in Sheringham House in Barmston.

"Police are linking the incident to a previous incident on April 13 where a swan was found dead at the Pond."

An imitation firearm was also stolen during the burglary. Anyone with any information should contact Washington CID on 03456 043 043 ext 66453 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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SHOCK AND DISGUST: Washington Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust CRUEL FATE: Cape Barren goose
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 22, 2010
Words:453
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