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Sad end to hunt for giant bird

PUBLISHED: 09:37 02 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:47 06 July 2010

A giant bird which was on the loose in the Suffolk countryside for a number of months has died just hours after being captured by the RSPCA.

The rhea, which is similar to an ostrich, had been seen at Eyke, near Woodbridge, and also close to Campsea Ashe and Marlesford.

A giant bird which was on the loose in the Suffolk countryside for a number of months has died just hours after being captured by the RSPCA.

The rhea, which is similar to an ostrich, had been seen at Eyke, near Woodbridge, and also close to Campsea Ashe and Marlesford.

Officials expressed their sadness and said they did not know what caused its death.

The bird was captured on Wednesday after being shot with a tranquilliser dart by the RSPCA.

A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said the decision to recapture the bird was made after officers received several calls from concerned members of the public.

She added: “The Wildlife and Countryside Act prevents the release and establishment of non-native species which may be detrimental to native wildlife, so we had a duty of care to try to catch it, and could not have let it continue to roam the countryside.

“It was also at great danger of running in front of a car and getting hurt or causing a serious accident.”

It was taken to a new home in Eye and was thought to be doing well, but sadly died later in the evening.

It was first reported last month that the bird was on the loose.

Chief inspector for the eastern region Mark Thompson, who has 23 years' experience with the RSPCA, was called to a field in Eyke on Wednesday to help with the capture, which took about two hours.

“It is obviously a very sad ending for all those who were involved,” he said. “It is the first time it has happened to me.

“The rhea was delivered to the farm and was said to be doing okay, but then unfortunately a little later on it passed away.

“We don't know why it was, it could have been the shock, but we don't know. It is one of those terrible things. It came as a complete surprise because I thought it was a very successful job. What we didn't want to do was stress it out and everything was done very slowly.”

Mr Thompson was brought in to capture the rhea because of his experience with a dart rifle.

“I was a last resort,” he said. “All other avenues had been pursued and failed and they decided they wanted me to go down.

“The main reason why we felt it was right to do it was because it was quite a large bird - four-and-a-half to five feet tall - and it was getting closer and closer to the public highways, crossing roads and there was a train track down there as well. It was felt it was safer for the bird and members of the public to take it into captivity.”

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