R.I.P Mrs Hannibal

Regular visitors to Wanstead Park are mourning the death of a female swan – known colloquially as Mrs Hannibal – which was killed by a dog which ran into the middle of Heronry Pond.

Mrs Hannibal, pictured above, had been a familiar sight in the pond for years. After the bird was attacked on 10 March, the Forest Ranger and a swan rescue representative went into the pond to attend to the swan, but it died as it was being taken to the Swan Sanctuary in Middlesex.

One of the regular visitors told Wansteadium: “Mrs Hannibal was a particularly beloved character in the park.

“She was known and loved by Park regulars because she had been the resident female there for so many years, and was a very calm, unaggressive bird who families loved to feed and visit. She produced cygnets every year and everyone loved to come and see the little family every year.


“Her previous mate had been named Hannibal because he fiercely defended his territory whenever an alien swan flew in and tried to spend time at the pond. Interestingly he was only aggressive to other swans but not to humans, who love to feed him also. He died of natural causes in 2012. Mrs Hannibal went on to form a new pair with another male who was ‘widowed’ that year also.”

“This male is now a widower again and has even deserted the park, though I hope this is temporary. It was almost time for nesting season for the swans.”

The Wanstead Guardian is reporting that the park authorities are ‘”gathering evidence” that it will use to prosecute the owner’ of a dog following the death of the bird. Swans are protected species and there are also park by-laws against dogs being allowed in the water and being off a lead if they are out of control.

One of the factors the paper cites is the low water level in the ponds in Wanstead Park, which might have contributed to the dog entering the water.

The Heronry Pond has been drained to allow repairs to its concrete lining. The Ornamental Water has not been receiving water via the Perch Pond because of the infestation of floating pennywort which Wansteadium reported last year.

Floating Pennywort in Perch Pond (Pic Robert Pickles)

The infestation is due to be addressed by contractors in the next few months – though complete eradication may be impossible. The Park authorities have applied to the Environment Agency to permission to take water from the River Roding in winter to help fill the Ornamental Water.

7 thoughts on “R.I.P Mrs Hannibal”

  1. That’s why bloody dogs shouldn’t be left off leads.. I’m constantly seeing stupid owners throw sticks, balls etc into the pond right at the birds… !!! Hope the owner gets a fine.. Although I guess nothing will happen…!!! This has really upset me…I’m furious…!!

    1. My sentiments are the same, having been attacked by a dog when I was walking in the park last year. I have also seen another member of public attacked. Owner pretty much said it was the cyclist’s fault for being in the park!!

  2. Yes, I’ve seen that activity too, all the time. When myself or my friends have spoken to the dog owners, we have had a range of reactions from total indifference, to “he’s only playing,” all the way to outright abuse, swearing and aggression. More than once I’ve heard “There’s no by-law, my dog can do what he wants.” There needs to be clear signage impressing upon dog owners that their dog is in fact obliged to be under control around the wildlife, or better yet, a new policy to designate a zones in which the dogs must remain on the lead at least until further away from the ponds and waterfowl. It’s a big park with plenty of other space to run.

    Having said this, there are good owners who are mindful of their dogs. But it only takes one out of control dog to do what’s happened here.

  3. Saddened me to read this, especially after reading of another swan which was taken out of a river
    recently for a “selfie” and consequently died of shock. Dogs should be on leads near wildlife – it is
    always the owner’s at fault for not being in charge of their animals. If dogs were licensed (like
    they used to be years ago) maybe people would be more responsible as you could then maybe track
    an owner and sue. God bles this dear soul of a swan and thankgoodness there are people who
    tried to help. I used to love Wanstead park as a child having been born nearby and how times
    have changed.

  4. We all have to have everyone else’s dogs, like we have to have everyone else’s children these days. I live right at the entrance to the park, and many dog owners believe their precious animals have the right to run wherever they want and harass whoever is in the vicinity. Only last week we confronted a woman who’s dog was on our property, in our drive, and barking at our cat which sat in the window. “We’ve only just parked for the park – he’s not dangerous” she said, as if that made the slightest bit of difference. I hope the owner of the dog involved in this incident is prosecuted to the full extent of the law, though I’ll believe it when I see it. As usual, it’s all “rights but no responsibility”.

  5. It’s looking like there may be a happier new turn of events for the male swan who lost his Mrs Hannibal — the male who at first was clearly in a depressed state, flew away but has now returned, with a new female, to Heronry Pond. A tender, tentative courtship is taking place.

    It is good news that our male has not abandoned these ponds — but we need to make sure this female doesn’t meet the same fate as Mrs Hannibal and the male’s previous mate also (also killed in a dog attack plus cygnets, in 2012). Conditions vis a vis dog danger plus low water levels are unchanged, thus these swans and other birds are still vulnerable.

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