STAFF at Southlands Hospital who have been caring for a flock of 13 ducklings have reacted with horror at the way the birds were moved on.
But Worthing and District Animal Rescue Service (WADARS) has defended its actions and said the mother duck should be discouraged from returning.
Carole King, a doctor’s secretary, said: “They have been a great source of delight for the staff – until WADARS came to collect the ducklings.”
She and other members of staff have sent complaints to WADARS, expressing dismay and disgust at the way the birds were collected last Tuesday.
The mother duck had laid 13 eggs in one of the quadrangles in the out-patient department three weeks ago.
“It has been a perfect place for protection for all 13 eggs to hatch and for the ducklings to grow safely away from the menacing seagulls,” said Carole.
Staff from the medical records department fed and watered the birds until they were big enough to move.
Carole said they assumed the ducklings would be moved with the mother but were upset to find she had flown off when WADARS arrived, so the birds were taken without her.
“It was so upsetting for the staff who had looked after them to see this poor mother duck trying to find her babies,” she added.
But charity manager Howard Stenning said far from being a perfect place, the site was an unlikely spot for a duck to nest, and an unsuitable one from a natural point of view, as it had no access to water.
“In a more normal setting, the mother duck would have taken the ducklings to water early in their life, and there they could start feeding themselves, and in time started to fly, but here there was no means of exit.”
By the time the ducklings were taken away, their adult plumage was coming through, and the mother was already leaving them for long periods of time.
All 13 ducklings were taken to Ferring Country Centre, before a ‘soft release’ to a managed pond. From there, they will be able to fly, and make their own way in the world.
Mr Stenning said it was clear the mother’s natural point of separation from her offspring was being reached.
“The mother duck did, of course, show some signs of distress afterwards, but this will be short-lived, and while it may seem harsh, the experience may well discourage her from returning to this problematic site,” he added.
“This can only be a good thing in terms of the bird’s natural life pattern.”