WWT Slimbridge has named a new group of rare swans after Gloucestershire’s Olympic greats.
Five young Bewick’s swans which have flown into WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre this winter have been named after Zara Philips MBE, Alex Gregory MBE, Zac Purchase MBE, Ed Clancy MBE and Peter Reed MBE, five medal –winning competitors with links to Gloucestershire.
Zac, said: “As a rower I spend a lot of time outdoors so really appreciate the natural world. I’m delighted to have one of these special wild swans named after me and hope he lives a long and healthy life.”
Throughout their lives the swans Zara, Alex, Zac, Ed and Peter will need to demonstrate incredible feats of endurance on their epic annual migrations between their wintering grounds at Slimbridge and Arctic Russia, so staff felt it was fitting to name them after the sport stars as a tribute.
Julia Newth, swan expert at WWT Slimbridge, said: “Some of the swans on the lake have flown more than 100,000 miles in their lifetime. They are incredible birds with amazing levels of endurance and an ambition to survive in often quite hostile environments with threats of predation and hunting.
“We were amazed by the achievements of team GB and loved reading about the competitors, particularly the ones with local links, so thought this would be a nice tribute to their achievements in reaching the Olympics and how well they did.
“Watching the Bewick’s swans arrive and feed at Slimbridge is a fantastic experience for families introducing their children to nature. We are working hard to protect this beautiful animal for many years to come.”
The public can see the swans up close during commentated feeds at 4pm each day until the end of this month. Over the next fortnight the Bewick’s swans will start to head off to their summer breeding grounds on the Tundra so now is a great time to see them before they embark on their spring migration.
Each swan has a unique bill pattern like a finger print. Each year adult birds and one year old ‘yearlings’ which fly into the centre for their first visit are given new names and their bill patterns are sketched and added to a database, allowing them to be studied throughout their life.
The Bewick’s swan is smaller than the common mute swan which is seen regularly across the UK. The Northwest population of Bewick’s swan is under threat with numbers declining by nearly a third since the mid 1990s –WWT experts monitor the flock which returns to Slimbridge each year and work with other conservation organisations to understand and minimise the threats they face between the UK and their breeding grounds in Arctic Russia.
Julia added: “We have loved seeing Team GB at the Olympics and just as the memory of London 2012 will stay with us for years to come we hope these swans will live long successful lives returning here year after year reminding us of team GB’s success.”