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6th July 2000
Research concerning The Mute Swan

Florida Research Project Targets
Vaccine Used Against Botulism in Swans

Index to The Regal Swan Project

Orlando, Florida

Five project team members have begun research on English Mute Swans at Orange Lake Resort & Country Club, in Orlando, Florida and at Lake Morton, Lakeland, Florida. The purpose of The Regal Swan research project is to prevent botulism mortality in the English Mute Swan species as well as other swan species found throughout the world. Currently, no botulism vaccine exists to protect birds from C. botulinum.

However, in the early 80's, Wade G. Gardner, D.V. M., Lakeland Veterinary Hospital, pioneered the use of Ultrabac® vaccine manufactured by Pfizer Animal Health to stem swan deaths from botulism on Lake Morton. The Regal Swan Project team is studying the use of the vaccine and conducting titre tests to ascertain the vaccine's level of protection against clostridia related diseases in swans.

Dr. W.G. Gardner knew that an established vaccine was available for Clostridia perfringens related diseases in cows. Dr. Gardner theorized that the symptoms of C. perfringens could mimic botulism. He began an experimental inoculation of the remaining birds with the Ultrabac® C. pefringens vaccine. Gardner's successful vaccination measures have protected English Mute Swans and other internationally protected swan species from botulism for more than 20 years.

Clostridia titre tests are being conducted to determine the levels of clostridial antibodies in the swans. Prior to The Regal Swan research project, clostridia tests for swans had not been examined due to limits on bio-medical technology. The results of the titres will be used as a baseline to determine the level of protection derived from the vaccine. The project team will then develop standardised protocols for administering Pfizer's Ultrabac® vaccine to swans. Lake Morton will serve as the natural lake testing site for the pilot titre tests. The Fountain Lake at Orange Lake will serve as the man-made lake testing site for the pilot titre tests.

A native of Europe and Asia, the English Mute Swan was originally introduced to the United States in the 19th century. The English Mute Swan is a protected species in England because of its royal lineage. Many of the swans are direct descendants of swans raised and bred from the Royal stock, dating back to the 12th century. Each year, botulism affects large numbers of swans worldwide, including the Queen's Royal Flock along the Thames River in England.

Indigenous to neither Florida nor the South-eastern United States, English Mute Swans are being introduced to hot and sometimes hostile climates to accentuate ponds and lakes. These bodies of water, many of which are man-made, are scattered throughout theme parks, resorts and hotels. Project members have discovered that information to swan owners regarding the care, feeding and breeding of the swans in a captive setting is inadequate.

Kemmons Wilson, the founder of Holiday Inns® and Orange Lake and his son, Spence Wilson, Chairman of the Board for Orange Lake, are sponsoring the project at the resort to increase awareness for long-term care of these birds.

"The entire Wilson family hopes this project changes the way the birds are raised and bred in captive settings, ensuring the health and well-being for generations to come," said Spence Wilson. "Standardised guidelines for the care of these birds will be developed and published in the upcoming book, "The Regal Swan", added Wilson.

Currently, the Orange Lake Resort & Country Club is a vacation home for 65,000 owners from throughout the United States and more than 100 countries worldwide. The resort features 90 holes of golf, two world-class recreation complexes, more than 1,300 accommodation units, an 80-acre lake with a white sand beach, restaurants and eateries, shopping and other amenities. English Mute Swans have graced the Resort's lakes for several years. Out of a growing interest in their care and upkeep, Orange Lake's staff discovered that the birds were the direct descendants of swans donated to the city of Lakeland by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II several years ago. This fact led to research which spawned the current partnership with Pfizer.

Geoffrey R. Gardner, D.V.M., son of Wade G. Gardner, D.V.M., is the project manager for The Regal Swan Project. Other team members include: Fanchon F. Funk, Ed.D., associate professor, Florida State University; Sheila A. Bolin, M.S., swan keeper, Orange Lake; Rebecca Webb Wilson, J.D., lifetime trustee of the Memphis Zoological Society and professional photographer; and Shirley A. Bolin, A.G.S., head photographer and staff writer for Orange Lake.

The Royal Windsor Web Site, run by ThamesWeb of Windsor, England was instrumental in assisting the project team with contacting swan caretakers throughout England. ThamesWeb introduced the team to Her Majesty's Swan Marker, Mr. David Barber. In return, Mr. Barber has made it possible for one of The Regal Swan's photographers, Ms. Rebecca Webb Wilson, to travel on the Queen's International Media boat during the July Swan-upping ceremonies in England. This annual ceremony dates back to medieval times. Swans are captured, examined and designated as Crown property during this time. Ms. Wilson will photograph and document the capture and marking of the swans for inclusion in the book, The Regal Swan, 2000.

For more information regarding see The Regal Swan Project.

Project team members also corresponded with Ms. Dorothy Beeson; founder of the Swan Sanctuary, Egham, England; Mr. Steve Knight, trustee of the Swan Sanctuary, Egham, England; and Mr. Martin Brown, animal health officer for the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Fund, Slimbridge, England. These individuals provided crucial information to the researchers regarding mortality and disease in wild and captive swans. On behalf of the project team, Dr. Nikolai Puchkov, from the Russian Academy of Sciences, contacted swan experts in Moscow, Russia which led team members to The Moscow Zoo. Dr. Vladimir Spitsin, Director of The Moscow Zoo and Mr. Sergei Popov, Head of Research at the Moscow Zoo provided team members with information on the endangered South American Coscoroba Swan as well as other swans housed at the Moscow facility.

The Regal Swan project would not have been possible without sponsors. Corporate sponsors include: American Camper, Blitz® USA, Bushnell Sports Optics Worldwide, Cobra Electronics, Lakeland Veterinary Hospital, Orange Lake Resort & Country Club, Pfizer Animal Health, The Sports Authority, and Timex®.

Index to The Regal Swan Project

The Royal Windsor Home Page


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