NE REQ Removal of swans from rattlechain

Licence issued to RSPCA to remove swans from Rattlechain lagoon


“A copy of the general licence issued to the RSPCA applied for between late February/ early March of this year, in respect of the authorised removal of a pair of mute swans from the highly toxic white phosphorus contaminated Rattlechain lagoon.”


In 2003 a pair of swans attempted to nest in a reed bed area near to the waste pipe and the Southern side of the lagoon very close to where houses now stand in Callaghan Drive. After laying some eggs the female left the nest and subsequently appeared to go into convulsions, that we now know to be associated with white phosphorus poisoning. This swan was rescued by us but died two days later, leaving behind the male swan and eggs. The male did not remain on the site.

In 2012 in exactly the same location, another pair of swans began attempting to nest. We obviously raised concern at this, given what had gone before, so approached the RSPCA and the local police wildlife liaison officer for advice. The RSPCA applied for a license to remove the nesting swans before any eggs had been laid.

As the issuers of the licence, we asked Natural England for a copy of it, partly out of curiosity as to what it contained, and if it shed any further light on the circumstances for removal.


Natural England supplied the following statement. Some personal details were redacted, which is fairly standard practice for FOI/EIR requests  under the Data Protection Act. They also redacted the new location that the birds were moved to in a rather lengthy reply stating

“We believe that the public do have the right to see the information that was used to decide whether the translocation was the correct option and the licence issued to allow this to happen. However we feel that this knowledge does not extend to the precise location of the site where the birds have be rehomed, given the possible threat to that location and its’ personnel if that information is released.”

We know where the birds went and so have no problem with this, nowhere could possibly be any worse than Rattlechain lagoon!

The licence to remove the swans was supplied.

The licence revealed that it was for the purpose of “conserving wild birds”


Conserving wild birds such as nesting swans is important. They would have had little or no chance of survival on this hazardous toxic waste lagoon. They would have been poisoned by toxic white phosphorus, as evidenced by other birds that have gone before them. Tragically another different pair of swans appeared not long after the removal of these two birds. The male swan was found dead in the reeds next to the nest that they had started to furnish. The subsequent post mortem revealed little but white phosphorus analysis confirmed exposure to white phosphorus before death. This would not be the amount that the bird ingested of this highly toxic, fast disappearing unnatural chemical weapon.

Dead male swan in the reeds

Dead male swan in the reeds