A FAMILY of swans shot with an airgun by youths in Lakeside Park have been relocated to Sussex.

The mute swans were attacked in October. Two cygnets were killed and a third maimed.

The three remaining cygnets and their traumatised parents were taken to a rehabilitation pool at The Swan Sanctuary in Egham.

Rangers said their safety could not be guaranteed at the park in Ash, where there have been several similar shootings.

At the time, sanctuary spokeswoman Linda Grundy said: “Every time this happens we feel so sick, so desperate and so useless.

“What people probably don’t realise is that swans mourn for their dead, and suffer depression as a result.”

The family stayed at the sanctuary for a fortnight before moving to a private lake in Sussex.

Sanctuary trustee Steve Knight said: “They now have a lovely home where they are being looked after.

“There are several acres of lake for them to live on, with an island, and hopefully they will be able to live a relatively normal life after their traumatic experience.”

He expressed his delight at new airgun regulations raising the age for their unsupervised use from 14 to 17.

“It’s about time. We have been campaigning for a long time to raise the age limit so we are very pleased.

“We see so much shooting of innocent wildlife but it all seems to be part of the increasing gun culture.

“The airguns now are so much more advanced than when I was a boy — then the pellets wouldn’t penetrate a tin can.

“Although we are obviously pleased, it does all come down to enforcement, and even more importantly sentencing.”

The RSPCA also applauded the action as it has campaigned for many years to curb airgun attacks on animals.

Last year it dealt with more than 900 in England and Wales, but many other wild animals hide away and die after shootings while lots of pets are taken to the vet without involving the charity.

RSPCA Chief Superintendent Kevin Degenhard said: “The RSPCA has been campaigning to have the legal age at which someone can use an airgun unsupervised raised from 14 to 17 for many years now.

“We are delighted that the government has committed to overhaul the current legislation governing their use.

“Year on year the number of air weapon attacks on animals rises significantly.

“It is about time that our civilised society took action against such irresponsible, destructive and cruel behaviour.”

l Over Christmas and New Year sanctuary rescuers travelled to Kazakhstan where a swan family was trapped on the frozen Caspian Sea.

Mr Knight said: “Unfortunately the parent birds were dead when we got there but we managed to free their three young cygnets.

“Two died but we were able to save the third cygnet once our medical supplies reached us. It is perilous for swans there at the moment as temperatures are minus 50 degrees.”