EIGHT swans who had been contaminated in oil have been released by West Hatch's RSPCA team.

On January 12, RSPCA frontline officers, Swan support staff and representatives from the Maritime Volunteer service rescued the swans from a river next to Quayside Road, in Southampton. They were then taken to Somerset to be cared for by the West Hatch team.

The Environmental Agency was made aware.

David Couper, senior clinician at West Hatch, said: “Oil in our waterways is a huge hazard for birds, and it is really important that we act quickly in situations like this.

"If oil is not removed from waterbirds quickly, it reduces the natural waterproofing in their plumage, leaving them at risk of dying from hypothermia.

“The swans also preen to try and clean themselves but while they are doing this they are not feeding and they will become weak - like these eight swans - so we have to act quickly before this happens.

Somerset County Gazette: The swans have been released.The swans have been released. (Image: RSPCA)

“It is so incredibly sad that these birds had to go through this because of someone’s thoughtless act of dumping this fuel.”

Posting on social media earlier this month (February 5), a spokesperson from RSPCA West Hatch added: "A few weeks ago, our RSPCA Water Rescue Team were joined by Swan Support and the Maritime Volunteer Service in an incredible joint effort to rescue eight oiled swans from a contaminated estuary in Southampton.

"After being transported to our centre, they were assessed by our vet to determine their condition and their care. The oil was removed immediately from their feet and legs to prevent their skin from breaking down and becoming infected.

"Once stabilised, the birds were washed by our highly skilled wildlife assistants, who specialise in oiled bird washing.

"Washing a contaminated bird should only be attempted by a professional who has undergone extensive training to do so."

More information about the West Hatch centre can be found on the RSPCA website, which reads: "The Centre was originally opened in 1963, beginning with the rescue of unwanted companion animals.

"With the dedication of the late John Hughes, the Centre expanded to also become one of the region's leading wildlife rehabilitation facilities, culminating with the opening of the Wildlife Hospital in 1993.

"In 1997 the Domestic Animal Centre was rebuilt, giving us the fantastic facilities we have today.

"The Centre has 42 kennels, 40 cat pens and a small animal block that can house a variety of animals, including rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, ferrets and much more."