• Switzerland's news in English
'Nelson' the black swan causes furore on Lake Geneva
File photo: Noel Reynolds

'Nelson' the black swan causes furore on Lake Geneva

The Local · 5 Jul 2016, 09:28

Published: 05 Jul 2016 09:28 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The swan – dubbed Nelson after Nelson Mandela – was seen swimming on Lake Geneva near Vevey in the canton of Vaud over the past few months, an unusual sight given the bird is a non-native species usually found in Australia.

Probably bred in captivity, it was unclear how the swan ended up in Vevey. A tag on its leg did not reveal its owner, and nobody came forward to claim it.

The situation was a concern for the Vaud cantonal authorities, who took the decision on May 27th to capture the bird to check it for diseases it could potentially pass on to native swans.

After a period of quarantine, the swan would be given to a zoo or animal park rather than released back to the lake, Frédéric Hofmann, responsible for animal welfare in the canton, told newspaper Le Matin at the time.

The decision caused uproar amongst the public, with many people expressing their anger on a Facebook group set up to campaign for the bird’s release.

“It’s hurting no one, this swan. I’ve seen it for the past five months in Vevey – if it wasn’t accepted by the others it would have gone somewhere else long ago,” said one commenter, before criticizing the decision to put it in captivity.

Speaking to the paper, the person behind the Facebook group said: “We have been deeply moved by its brutal and incomprehensible capture. It’s perfectly adapted [to the lake] and seemed very happy. We don’t understand the need to quarantine it and then put it in a zoo.”

The emotion surrounding the case caused the authorities to change their mind, and the bird was finally released back into Lake Geneva last week by the head of Vaud’s environment department, Jacqueline de Quattro.

But now a Swiss animal protection group has questioned the action, saying the bird’s re-release could be illegal.

Speaking to NZZ am Sonntag at the weekend, Francois Turrian of BirdLife Suisse said since the bird was a non-native species there was a “risk of competition with indigenous species”.

“That’s why the federal law on the hunting and protection of birds and wild animals forbids the reintroduction of such an animal into nature. Its place is in a park,” he said.

In this particular case, black swans are not able to reproduce with native species, so there is little risk.

Story continues below…

However the action by Jacqueline de Quattro was a “bad example” that could push the owners of other exotic animals – such as tortoises – to release them into the wild without thinking of the damage they could cause, Turrian told the paper.

“We don’t understand why, if not for an electoral reason, a cantonal councillor would decide not to follow federal law.”

On Monday de Quattro defended her actions, telling the press that since ‘Nelson’ can’t reproduce with native species he therefore will have no impact on biodiversity.

“I absolutely dispute the suggestion I showed a bad example,” she said, saying that the swan was very different to other cases involving exotic animals.

For more news from Switzerland, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Local (news@thelocal.ch)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Presented by MoneyPark
How to get a mortgage in Switzerland
Houses in Zürich. Photo: Pixabay.

Ready to buy? Here’s what you need to know as an expat about Swiss regulations, how to finance your purchase, and why you should use a broker.

Autumn in Switzerland: ten stunning Instagram photos
Photo: Swiss Tourism/Jan Geerk

Switzerland is beautiful in all seasons, but as these photos show, autumn is a special time in the alpine country.

Report: Swiss progress slows on gender equality
File photo: David Soulivet

Globally, it will take 170 years to achieve gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum.

Brothers go to court to stop suicide of sibling
File photo: Lisa Edmonds

Two men have filed a legal bid to prevent the Swiss assisted suicide association Exit from helping their older brother to kill himself.

Wawrinka snubs past form to reach Basel second round
Wawrinka beat local wildcard Marco Chiudinelli. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

US Open champion Stan Wawrinka has reached the second round in Basel after going out in the first round for the past four years.

Villagers asked to help fund bridge renovations
The bridge links the two villages of Veltheim (pictured) and Holderbank. Photo: Lutz Fischer-Lamprecht

The crowdfunding campaign by the two communes is the first of its kind in Switzerland.

Police discover body buried in Orbe house
File photo: Bas Leenders

Police have opened an investigation after finding a body buried in a house in Orbe, in the canton of Vaud, on Saturday.

Valais shaken by 4.2 magnitude earthquake
The earthquake hit in the canton of Valais near Sierre. Photo: Alain Rouiller

It's the biggest earthquake to hit the country for two years.

Swiss Indoors kicks off without champ Federer
Federer celebrates with ball girls and boys after winning the event in 2015. Photo: Harold Cunningham/Pool/AFP

Stan Wawrinka is top seed as injured Federer sits it out.

IOC hires Russian doping whistleblower as consultant
IOC President Thomas Bach confirmed the news. File photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has hired Vitaly Stepanov as a consultant and is helping his runner wife Yuliya.

Photo: Unterirdisch Ueberleben
Inside Switzerland’s largest nuclear bunker – 40 years on
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: The Local
Ticino firefighters rescue cow from swimming pool
Photo: Antoni Da Campo
Vegan wins battle to be accepted by Swiss army
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Ten Swiss ski resorts named most expensive in Europe
Photo: Randy Kashka
Swiss women will ‘work for free’ for the rest of year
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Montreux throws hat in Olympic rings
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Seven things you’ll miss about Switzerland if you leave
Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
jobs available