'Human swan' returns to the skies to track Bewick swans

British conservationist and 'human swan' returns to the skies after being injured following rare Bewick’s swans on their migration from Russia, only to discover the death of a swan. 

11th November 2016
Dench in flight

Sacha Dench from Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) is currently travelling 4,500 miles from Russia to the UK on a motorised paraglider to track the migration of endangered Bewick's swans.

However, progress was halted following an accident during take off from Russia which saw her dislocate her knee and have to delay her flight. . 

After getting back in the air, she arrived in Poland to be told that a swan known as Charlotte, who had been part of the tracking programme for the last two years and was travelling on the same journey as Dench, hadn't survived.

Both Dench and the birds had met bad weather conditions in Estonia, but whilst the conservationist arrived safely in Poland, Charlotte never arrived.

Charlotte in Estonia

Swan Charlotte in Estonia. Credit: WWT

Sacha's support team attempted to locate Charlotte's body, however poor weather conditions meant search had to be abandoned. 

Sacha Dench said: “This is such sad news. Looking at a beautiful Bewick’s swan, you don’t appreciate how incredibly tough they need to be to complete this gruelling journey. I have an engine and a support team and, even so, it’s without a doubt the most physically and emotionally challenging thing I’ve ever done.

“As part of the Wildfowl & Wetland Trust swan tracking programme for the last two years, Charlotte gave us an invaluable window into their world. Sadly, you can see on our Flight of the Swans website that Charlotte’s tracker is now just moving up and down the coast with the tide.

“Each year hundreds of Bewick’s swans don’t make it. We may never know what happened to Charlotte, but it’s important that she doesn’t die in vain. Please sign the petition on the Flight of the Swans website to protect swans and restore lost wetlands.”

Dench is journeying across northern Europe to the swans’ most westerly destination: Slimbridge Wetland Centre in Gloucestershire. She hopes this will gives us more idea as to why Bewick's swan populations are declining. Along the way, she is visiting schools and communities to teach others about Bewick Swans. 

Images: Wild and Wetland Trust

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