Wildlife hospital appeals for proper disposal of PPE due to threat to animals

Wildlife Hospital Appeals For Proper Disposal Of Ppe Due To Threat To Animals
Swans and other wildlife have become caught in disposable facemasks. Image: Marie Purdy.
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Louise Walsh

Contains images some may find upsetting.

Ireland's first wildlife rehabilitation hospital is appealing to people to stop dumping litter and discard face masks responsibly after a swan got entangled in the looped ear coverings.


In recent times, the newly-opened sanctuary has also had to treat a number of animals that got stuck in disposed coffee cups and bottles.

These included a hedgehog who got stuck and almost suffocated in a used coffee cup as well as a fox who was saved after being unable to get his face out of a bottle.

The hospital issued the alert after being able to save the cygnet who was found in Bray Harbour in Co Wicklow with the face mask wrapped around its beak.

Swan found on Rathescar Lake, Co Louth with fishing tackle caught around its beak. Image: supplied by Louise Walsh.

A post on social media pleads: "It breaks our hearts to be in a position to publish these photos but please, please, please dispose of used face coverings responsibly.

"This beautiful cygnet is thankfully now free of the face mask, thanks to the help of Marie Purdy, but it could have caused serious harm had it not been spotted

"Apart from putting the masks in an appropriate bin, please also snip or pull out the ear holds before doing so as they can so easily get wound around the body of a bird or animal and cause injury or even death.

"We would also like to thank the member of the public who reported this to us, allowing us to intervene to help the cygnet."


An image of a fox which had got trapped in a large plastic bottle that had been cut in half. Image: supplied by Lousie Walsh.

Ongoing issue

However, it is not the first time the hospital has come to the aid of an animal caught in a used face mask, while discarded litter in general has led to the deaths and serious injury of a number of wild animals in recent times.

"We also saved a duck after a facemask became tightly wound around his neck," said Aoife McPartlin, education office of the WRI Wildlife Hospital.

"The cygnet is the second incident we have personally seen of facemasks threatening the lives of wildlife but from talking to our colleagues abroad and across the country, it is a growing problem," she said.


"Litter as well is another huge issue in terms of animal welfare.

"In the last few weeks, we have received into care a hedgehog whose face got stuck in a coffee cup and a fox who got stuck in a cut-off water container. Unfortunately we weren't able to save him, and he had to be euthanised.

A fox cub with its head caught in a broken glass jar. Image: supplied by Louise Walsh.

"Sadly, many animals die after being entangled in various bits of litter including coffee cups, fishing tackle and face masks. One fox cub was saved after he couldn't get his head out of a plastic cooked chicken bag.

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"Some animals suffer necrosis or dead tissue from tightly wound strings and others have to be put down if they lose a leg because they can't survive in the wild.

"We are urging people to just think before they dump. 90 per cent of injuries to wildlife from litter are because of humans. It's dreadful to see the disconnect between people and wildlife that people just can't see," she added.

The hospital, which opened outside Navan, Co Meath in February, has currently 65 patients in its care, including two otter cubs which were found shivering in a mound by a passer-by out walking in Carlingford, Co Louth.

"We have had such great support from the public since opening. The outpouring of help and generosity has been overwhelming," said Ms McPartlin.

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