Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre

33 birds have been saved from canal oil spillage in Manchester

An RSPCA water rescue team has been busy rescuing 33 Canada Geese from a diesel spillage in a canal in Manchester over the past two days.

The animal welfare charity was called to rescue the geese from three locations on the Bridgewater Canal on Wednesday after reports of diesel in the waterway which had covered the birds. 

Rescuers managed to capture 18 birds who were contaminated with oil on the first day and they returned to the scene to rescue a further eight adults and seven goslings yesterday. (Thurs)

Rescues took place in Ellesmere Street, in the Castlefields area, at Potato Wharf and also near Newton Street in Stretford.

If oil is not removed from waterbirds it reduces the natural waterproofing in their plumage, leaving them at risk of dying from hypothermia - so it is vital that they are rescued and treated as soon as possible.

Animal Welfare Officer (AWO) Steve Wickham led the water rescue over the two days. On Wednesday Greater Manchester Fire Service helped the RSPCA.


Then yesterday a team of four water officers using a raft were involved in the canal rescues with three more RSPCA rescuers deployed on the canal side.

Steve said: “It has been a busy couple of days for us capturing the birds but they were covered in oil so needed treating as a matter of urgency.

“We used a water raft but we also had to swim out to safely capture the birds throughout the two days - and with the heavy rainfall it was quite a task.

“We believe the torrential rain on Tuesday may have washed diesel into the canal and this has oiled the birds . We have reported the matter to The Environment Agency.”

All of the oiled birds were taken to Stapeley Grange Wildlife Centre, in Nantwich, where they were thoroughly washed and once they are healthy will be released back into the wild under licence from Natural England 

Sometimes several deep cleans are needed to remove all the oil. It can be fairly labour intensive; it takes two staff to wash one bird and can take up to 30 minutes for each wash.  

Lee Stewart, manager at Stapeley Grange, said: “Cleaning just one bird can use half a bottle of washing-up liquid, and oiled birds sometimes need to have multiple washes to be completely cleaned of the oil - so staff will get through a large number of bottles.”

Anyone who sees pollution on water or land should call the Environment Agency 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 807060. 

Concerns for a wild animal that has come into contact with oil or other contaminants should be reported to the RSPCA’s emergency line on 0300 1234 999.

To support the ongoing work of the wildlife hospital, during this extremely difficult time, please donate to the Wildlife JustGiving site.