TWO weeks ago, I wrote about Dot Beeson, the lovely lady who runs the Swan Sanctuary in Felix Lane, Shepperton and told the story of how she first became involved with helping injured birds and other wildlife.
Her persistence over nearly 30 years has really paid off with the splendid facility which has sprung up on the site a testament to her dedication. But I wondered what she hoped for the future of the sanctuary which deals with an average of 3,000 injured or abandoned birds each year.
Dot said: “I really hope we can help to educate future generations and make them understand about taking responsibility for their actions.
“Many of the birds we get in here have been injured through carelessness or stupidity and I hope we can help to teach people that by taking just a little care that number could be drastically reduced.”
Two of the main reasons swans get injured are fishing line and hooks left on the river bed by anglers and dogs attacking swans on the river bank.
“I know that no fisherman deliberately sets out to hurt a swan but by leaving fishing line and hooks in the river, they are asking for trouble. The birds are bottom feeders and it’s so easy for them to get a hook embedded in their bills or to get fishing line wrapped so tightly around their legs that it stops the circulation and they end up losing a leg,” she said.
But Dot reserves her biggest criticism for dog owners who fail to keep their pets on a lead when walking beside the river.
“It really angers me when we hear about dogs savaging swans – some people almost seem to think it’s funny when their dogs chase the birds but they can do an awful lot of damage.”
To achieve her goal of teaching youngsters about the importance of caring for wildlife, Dot will open a brand new visitor centre at the sanctuary later this year.
“When that’s ready, we’ll open the sanctuary up to the public and that will help us enormously with fund-raising,” she said. “It costs around £150,000 a year to run this place.
“We’ll show films and give talks about the importance of wildlife and hopefully we’ll get schools involved. The centre will have a tea bar and small gift shop that will also help us generate funds so that we don’t have to keep going cap in hand to the marvellous companies who have regularly helped us out over the years.”
When the sanctuary does finally open to the public, I strongly urge you to pay Dot and her team a visit. And don’t think the only thing you’ll see there is swans – there are literally dozens of different species being cared for including parrots, herons, storks, gulls, budgies, blackbirds, starlings, owls, pigeons and parakeets. Not to mention goats, tortoises, rabbits and Dot’s 11 pet cats. All set in beautiful surroundings.
And if you have a few hours to spare in the mornings, why not think about becoming a volunteer at the sanctuary? Dot is full of praise for the regular helpers who give up their time to keep the Swan Sanctuary ticking over but she is always keen to welcome new ones.
“It doesn’t matter whether they want to help in the office or muck out the pens – we can use all the help we can get,” she said.
For more information, visit the Swan Sanctuary website or call Dot on 07712 136858.