An af­ter­noon of de­spair

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - LIND­SAY SIMP­SON

MAGNETIC IS­LAND, QUEENS­LAND THE rub­ber dinghy sped along an in­let on Toronto Is­land Park, its two happy oc­cu­pants laugh­ing loudly.

When the dull thud of the col­li­sion sounded, no one seemed to notice; the peo­ple in the dinghy were still laugh­ing as they sped away. With a sense of dread, I walked to the wa­ter’s edge.

In the shal­low wa­ter near the bank was a white swan, blood pour­ing from its belly; then I heard its mate’s click­ing sounds of panic as it ap­proached from across the in­let.

A woman with a baby phoned an emer­gency num­ber; she was told help was at least two hours’ away. She also con­firmed what I sus­pected. ‘‘They were aim­ing straight for that bird,’’ she said.

Stop­ping the garbage man as he drove to­wards us, I asked him if he could send for help. When I ex­plained why, he looked in­cred­u­lous. ‘‘A swan? So what? The foxes will get it later. Who cares?’’

By this time the swan’s long neck had folded on to its body. Then it shook its head and tried to raise it, but in vain. On the bank, a young woman was tak­ing pho­to­graphs and ex­claim­ing to her part­ner how cute the swan looked. ‘‘It is dy­ing,’’ I said. ‘‘Dy­ing?’’ she re­sponded, shocked.

The young woman at the farm on the is­land was clos­ing the barn for the night when I rushed in. She promised she would ra­dio for help. I walked re­luc­tantly to­wards the crowds con­gre­gat­ing for the over­crowded ferry back to Toronto.

I re­turned to my ho­tel with a heavy heart and emailed the marine po­lice to re­port an­i­mal cru­elty. The quick re­sponse was apolo­getic, re­as­sur­ing me this sort of be­hav­iour is frowned upon by most Cana­di­ans. As a reg­u­lar trav­eller to Canada, I know this is so. But, as I left Toronto, I knew this hor­rid scene would al­ways stay with me.

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