Ask the Swan Specialist

Florida Swan Researchers Identify Bacterium Causing Swans To Turn Pink
By:The Regal Swan ®
Date: 7 April 2007



April 9, 2007
For Immediate Release

Contact: Shirley Bolin
Telephone: (407) 931-6838
Email: Bolin.S@att.net


Florida Swan Researchers Successfully Identify Bacterium Causing UK Wild Swans Along The Thames To Turn Pink: Procter & Gamble’s Fairy Liquid® Helps Remove The Microbes


ORLANDO, Florida-April 9, 2007 - Florida-swan researchers have successfully identified a bacterium as the putative etiologic agent causing pink discoloration in Mute Swans from the wild population in the United Kingdom. Gram-positive rods, possibly Corynebacterium-like species were identified from several infected swans as the culprit through extensive, laboratory testing by members of The Regal Swan®, a swan-research team, based in Orlando. The majority of Mute Swans in the UK are the property of the British Crown.


Project Collaborators included: Her Majesty’s Swan Warden, Dr. Christopher Perrins, Oxford University; Wendy Hermon, Swan Lifeline Rescue, Windsor, England; Dr. John O’Halloran, Merita O’Connell and Diedre McElligott, University of Cork Ireland, Cork, Ireland; Roger Cullingham, editor, The Royal Windsor Website, Windsor, England; Dr. Leonel Mendoza, medical microbiologist, Michigan State University; Dr. Geoffrey R. Gardner, Central Florida veterinarian and president of the Florida Veterinary Medical Association, Lakeland, Florida; Dr. Christopher W. Brown, Central Florida veterinarian; Dr. Fanchon F. Funk, professor emerita, Florida State University; Sheila Bolin, swan keeper/wildlife manager, Orange Lake, Orlando, Florida; Shirley Bolin, photographer/ swan keeper, Orange Lake. Orlando, Florida; Shawn Boschert, ornithologist-horticulturist/associate swan keeper, Orange Lake, Orlando, Florida; Sherry Bowen, hematologist/professor, Indian River Community College, Ft. Pierce, Florida; Rebecca Webb Wilson, researcher/photographer, Memphis, Tennessee; Spence Wilson, chairman of the board, The Family of Orange Lake Resorts and logistics coordinator, Memphis, Tennessee; Charlie Huggins, logistics coordinator, Memphis, Tennessee, and Sally Graziano, Scanning Electron Microscopist, Orlando Science Center. Researchers examined affected swan feathers from the UK in an effort to determine the cause of the unknown pigmentation. Noting the same phenomenon in Florida swans at the time of the birds’ yearly moult, The Regal Swan® researchers also examined Florida swan feathers. The affected feathers from both samples were then swabbed and the cultures submitted to a laboratory where the bacterium was identified.


Although, more than 50 species of bacteria were cultured from the feathers, based on bacteriological cultural criteria, researchers were then able to successfully identify pigmented yellow-reddish Gram-positive rods, later identified as Corynebacterium-like species, from both the UK and Florida samples. These studies suggested that the presence in culture of great numbers of the Gram-positive rods colonies could only be possible through active reproduction of these bacteria on the feathers. Sequencing and biochemical testing of the Corynebacterium-like bacteria is scheduled for the near future to determine the correct classification of the isolated Gram-positive rods.


Based upon the general knowledge that surfactants can help remove bacteria from objects, The Regal Swan® researchers tested several surfactant products to help return the swans’ feathers to their natural white coloring. It was determined that Procter & Gamble’s Fairy Liquid® and Dawn® successfully removed the microbes. The researchers also found that these two products showed some inhibitory bacterial function during laboratory experimentation. The team then conducted actual field-testing of the liquids on the swans at Orange Lake in Orlando, Florida.


Once the Orange Lake tests were successfully completed, the Florida researchers advised UK swan caretakers to begin washing their affected birds in the Fairy Liquid®. Affected swans from her Majesty’s flock along the Thames River were then captured and bathed in the Fairy Liquid®, according to Wendy Hermon, Swan Lifeline Rescue. She reported similar success in removing the bacteria from the UK swans’ feathers after using the Fairy Liquid®.


In July, Procter & Gamble’s Fairy Liquid® will sponsor 10 members of The Regal Swan® to travel to London, by special invitation, to travel with Her Majesty’s Swan Warden and Her Majesty’s Swan Marker along the Thames river, during the annual Royal Swan Upping. This centuries-old event is held to measure the health of the royal swan flock.


The team will serve as the official ambassadors of Proctor and Gamble’s Fairy Liquid® during their stay in England. Following the Royal Upping, the team will then travel to Abbottsbury to meet with swan keepers and photograph more than 900 swans from a flock dating back to the Crusades. Core research members traveling to London include: Gardner, Brown, Funk, Bolin, Boschert, Bolin, Bowen, Graziano, Rebecca Boschert, public relations; and Susan Loughrey, medical audiologist. The purpose of the team’s trip is to collaborate with royal swan keepers and veterinarians to garner data for use in a medical veterinary book as it relates to swan care.


Fairy Liquid® is the UK’s #1 selling washing up liquid and has been used to successfully to remove oil from penguins, sea birds and other wildlife during major environmental disasters such as oil spills located throughout the world. For more than 45 years, Fairy Liquid® has been part of the British repertoire and is a trusted brand recognized for its mildness to hands, and its long lasting formula. All Fairy® Liquid products are endorsed by the British Skin Foundation. Comparable to Procter & Gamble’s Dawn® found in the United States, both of these Procter & Gamble products are recognized worldwide for their wildlife initiatives known as Fairy Liquid® Saves Wildlife and Dawn® Saves Wildlife.


The Regal Swan®, a 27-member team, comprised of veterinarians, swan keepers, educators, photographers, writers and other professionals, is committed to the humane treatment and veterinary medical care of captive swans. The swan researchers are best known for successfully pioneering the use of a cattle vaccine against botulism and an equine vaccine for West Nile Virus in swans. The Regal Swan® researchers, led by Mendoza, were also the first to identify the protozoan, Rhinosporodium seeberi, that affects both humans and swans through DNA Sequencing. The testing also identified the transmission vector as water. The Regal Swan® has been awarded both the prestigious U.S. Daily Points of Light Award and the Florida Governor’s Points of Light Award for its pioneering research. For more information on The Regal Swan®, please visit: www.theregalswan.com


Research for the program has been conducted at Orange Lake Orlando, Florida and Lake Morton in Lakeland, Florida. Orange Lake’s flagship location in Orlando was founded in 1982 by Kemmons Wilson, the legendary business entrepreneur who built the successful Holiday Inn® hotel chain. Orange Lake is home to six Mute Swans. For more information, please go to: www.orangelake.com Lake Morton is a 40-acre lake in downtown Lakeland that is home to more than 160 swans consisting of three species.



Affected Windsor Swans



Windsor Swan Before Treatment



Orange Lake Swan Before Treatment



Sheila Bolin, Orange Lake Orlando Swan Keeper and member of The Regal Swan® team washes an Orange Lake Orlando Mute swan.



Orange Lake Swan After Treatment



A bottle of Proctor and Gamble’s Fairy Liquid®.






Photo Credits

Windsor Swan Photos: Copyright 2007. Photos of Windsor swans by Wendy Hermon, Swan Lifeline Rescue, Eton, United Kingdom. Used by special permission.

Orange Lake Orlando Swan Photos and Fairy Liquid®

Copyright 2007. Swan Photos By Shirley A. Bolin, The Regal Swan®, Orlando, Florida. Used by special permission.