A FAMILY of swans has been devastated by an outbreak of botulism in the Longford river.
Five cygnets and their father were found dead in the river, near Feltham town centre, on Saturday (August 31) afternoon.
Their mother was taken in by The Swan Sanctuary in Shepperton, where her condition was this week described as touch and go.
Their deaths were blamed by sanctuary founder Dorothy Beeson on botulism, a bacterial condition causing paralysis in birds and other animals.
She said the hot summer had led to a huge rise in cases of avian botulism by promoting the growth of naturally-occurring bacteria in the silt at the bottom of rivers.
"It's the worst summer I've known for about 25 years. It's been like a warzone in this hospital. We've had birds on drips all over the place," she added.
Ruth Ball, bar manager of Feltham Constitutional Club, had been watching the family of swans for several weeks and described her distress at watching them die.
"They were fine in the morning but their necks suddenly started dropping into the water and their parents were desperately trying to save them," added, the 45-year-old, who lives in Feltham.
"We tried to help but there was nothing we could do. I thought they might have been deliberately poisoned at first, but I'm glad to hear that's not the case."