Published: 10:48, 02 December 2018
| Updated: 13:16, 10 December 2018
An entire family of swans has been killed in a ‘senseless’ and 'deliberate' attack.
The bodies of both parent birds and all five of their cygnets were discovered wrapped in plastic bags on the bank of a stream in Stepneyford Lane, Benenden.
Officers from Kent Police's Rural Task Force confirmed they were called to the scene at 10am on Saturday, November 24 and are continuing to assist the RSPCA in its investigation.
Postmortems conducted on two of the birds revealed shotgun pellets in one bird and air gun pellets in another.
RSPCA inspector Dave Grant said: “Two of the birds' bodies were examined by staff at RSPCA Mallydams Wood Wildlife Centre in Hastings, East Sussex, and X-rays revealed that they were peppered with shot or pellets.
“It’s clear that these poor mute swans have been shot and killed deliberately - one of the birds was peppered with pellets.
“It’s absolutely disgusting that someone would purposefully target and kill these beautiful birds, and it’s heartbreaking that an entire family has been wiped out in this cruel incident.”
The RSPCA has called for better regulation of air weapons after receiving a total of 884 reports of air gun attacks on animals across England and Wales in 2017.
Last year, there were 51 calls from Kent about air gun attacks - the second highest figure in the country. Wild birds, wild animals and cats are the most likely to be injured by air guns.
Inspector Grant added: “I’m keen to find out who is responsible for this senseless attack on this family of swans."
If you have any information about what happened to the birds, or if you saw something suspicious in the area at the time, please contact the RSPCA appeal line on 0300 123 8018.