Swans pictured after the severe oil spill in Athlone.

Swans rescued from Athlone oil spill have since died

A couple of swans who were rescued from the oil spill in Athlone and cleaned have since died, it has emerged.

The male and female swan and their cygnets were initially taken from the river Shannon and underwent specialist cleaning in a treatment centre in Kildare before being kept during the intervening period at an undisclosed holding location.

However, both female and male swans have died in the last week according to wildlife enthusiast Ruairi O Leocháin, who has been highlighting the issue of the oil spill for well over a month.

The results of a toxicology report is now being awaited, although the contamination and the impact of their recent experience is at least a likely contributory factor to their deaths.

The pair of swans and their family are a well known feature of town centre life in Athlone having nested just upriver from the Radisson Blu Hotel opposite Athlone Boat Club for the past eight to ten years.

The swans and their batches of cygnets regularly approached tourists on Athlone's Viking Boat as it travels upriver to Hodson Bay.

Ruairi O Leocháin said the female swan began to show signs of sickness and a vet was called but the swan died over a week ago.

Ruairi said the male swan also died within the following week. “To me, it looked like it was heartbroken,” he said.

He said it is incredibly frustrating. “These two swans that have died, it was keeping me going, knowing that I put them back,” he told the Westmeath Independent.

O Leocháin said the issue of the oil contamination appeared to have fallen off the radar.

Whilst the area around the River Al appears clean, the problem has simply moved onto the area on both sides of the canal between Mick McQuaid's bridge and the River Shannon.

O Leocháin says the contamination is not as visible as it has spread into the fields and marshy areas surrounding the canal and river at the bottom of The Big Meadow area.

He said the topography of the river in that area and wind conditions means the oil slick is being blown back and forth by changing winds.

On Monday, he located the body of a dead moorhen, covered in oil. He said he believes it died within the last week. His photographs also show the film of oil remaining on the river.

Ruairi said he had been in touch with the local authority and is continuing to seek another clean up operation to be initiated in the area around the canal and The Big Meadow.

He is also now hoping to raise the issue at EU level through MEP Matt Carty.