Wildlife Rescue, Channel 4, review: you will be left furious by human carelessness

Sue and Charlotte care for a swan caught in a fish hook
Sue and Charlotte care for a swan caught in a fish hook - Channel 4

“I’ve got a pigeon in my bathtub,” says a caller to the South Essex Wildlife Hospital, “and I think it’s pregnant.” The call handler explains that pigeons don’t get pregnant, they lay eggs. A useful lesson for him, although it didn’t change the fact that the pigeon was still there, in his bathtub, hiding from the cat.

Animal programmes are ten-a-penny on television but I was glued to Wildlife Rescue (Channel 4). Partly, because the team running the hospital is so engaging. It’s led by founder Sue, who left the police force six years ago and initially looked after injured animals in her terraced home before realising she needed bigger premises.

Then there are the animals. The episode began with a fox on a building site in Grays, its head stuck in a plastic bottle. The poor thing was unable to eat or drink, the bottle cutting into its neck. As Sue pointed out – and this was the theme of the programme – most of the problems befalling these creatures are man-made, in this case someone discarding litter. Two intrepid volunteers managed to catch the fox and take him in, but the outlook wasn’t good.

Next, a swan with a fish hook caught in its elegant neck. “To catch a swan that doesn’t want to be caught is really, really difficult,” said team member Charlotte, before chasing it around the park. Removing the hook required surgery under anaesthetic, which is risky for swans due to the nature of their respiratory system.

Finally, three orphaned seals being prepared for a return to the wild, except one of them – Gerald – had grown used to lounging around, waiting to be hand-fed.

The programme left me angry at the damage caused by careless humans, grateful for the hard work put in by the staff and volunteers, and rooting for the animals. The swan sadly didn’t make it through a second operation. The fox, against the odds, recovered and was taken back to its home. And the seals were released back into the sea, a hesitant Gerald lingering on the beach before following the other two into the water. “Isn’t that the best thing ever,” said Sue, a tear in her eye, and you couldn’t help but agree.

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